The Bridge of Arco, over the river Ovelha, connects the banks of the parishes of Folhada and of Várzea de Ovelha e Aliviada, which currently belong to the municipality of Marco de Canaveses. Until the 19th century, it was at the centre of the municipality of Gouveia.
Despite the difficulties in dating the time period in which it was built, we can suggest that this might be a late building corresponding to the period of the late Middle Ages or early Modern Age, when commuting and occasional medium-distance travelling (such as processions) or obtaining sacraments to churches with a tabernacle required better roads and, consequently, appropriate crossings.
To reinforce the idea, we should stress that this Bridge was located at the intersection of multiple communication routes of medieval and modern times: the road connecting the Bridge of Canaveses with the road from Amarante to Mesão Frio featured a section that went through Várzea de Ovelha towards the Bridge of Arco.
Nearby, this road was joined by another section that came from the Church of Folhada. Once the crossing was made, the route continued towards the Church of the Saviour of Monte, where it joined another road that came from Canaveses and headed towards Amarante.
1758 – The abbot of Folhada mentions and describes the Bridge of Arco;
1982 – By Decree no. 28 from February 26th, the Bridge of Arco was considered as a Building of Public Interest;
1986 – Because it was a car passageway, the bridge suffers a few setbacks, related to its parapet and paving;
2010 – Integration of the Bridge of Arco in the Route of the Romanesque.
Architecture and Furniture
With a simple structure, the Bridge of Arco comprises a single arch, with a trestle-shaped elevation, taking advantage of the rocky outcrops on both banks, which grant it sturdiness and verticality.
A breakwater was added to the south bank of the structure, placed against its upstream face, to allow it to withstand the impact of debris carried by strong currents. Close to this breakwater, on the north side, the Bridge features an opening, with a slightly rounded rectangular shape (a bit lower than the breakwater), which allows passing through it.
Due to the persistence of this trestle-shaped model and the significant use of round or broken arches as supporting elements, it becomes difficult to prove that this is a Romanesque construction merely by making a simple reading of its structure.
The absence of initials, despite not being decisive, would aid in its dating. For the time being, we are not able to find these signals in the wall faces of the Bridge, despite the fact that it obeys the common rules of construction of Romanesque crossings.
On the north side of the right bank, aligned with the platform, we find a few “Alminhas” [small shrines], simple monuments of religious piety, often built close to rural routes or national roads with the intention, for example, of indicating the routes that led to the region’s most important sanctuaries and pilgrimages
Regular guided visits