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That photo of me and my sons taken the year 1982 beside the stone bridge of Tsagarada in Pelion, inspired me to make these two pages showing some of the beautiful stone bridges of Greece and to mention the epic folk poem about the legendary bridge of Arta in Eperus . The rest photos and the translation of the poem are from the internet.
The regions of Epirus, Thrace, Macedonia (not FYROM) and Pelion in North Greece are dispersed by beautiful traditional stone bridges and the most beautiful are those of Epirus. These regions have high mountains and many rivers that people had to cross and for this reason built those beautiful stone bridges. They were constructed the 18th and 19th century and they are carved out of the very living rock and blend harmoniously with nature and provide a distinctive charm to the various rivers over which they stand proudly.
The craggy, inaccessible landscape of Epirus has produced the most skilled bridge-builders. The technicians and stone-masons, in the villages of Tzoumerka were particularly skilled. As itinerant craftsmen, they would set of in search of work after Easter, usually on St. George’s day and returned in the midst of autumn. The troop of the bridge-builders was consisted from stone-builders, clay-men, marble carvers, stone hewers and many boys – known as apprentices who carried the materials from dawn to dusk. These craftsmen also devised their own idiom – the “craftsman’s tongue” – “mastorika” – in an attempt to safeguard their art and interests.
Many of these bridges are tied up with popular myths. Due to shortages in construction many bridges collapsed in a short time, praising the imagination of people, who used to create myths about beings that interfered with the construction. The most famous of these bridges is the legendary stone bridge of Arta which was built in 1612 and it spans with its beautiful arches the width of Arachthos river. According the legend, the bridge of Arta could not be constructed unless the chief mason had sacrificed his wife. An entire epic poem is dedicated to this legend, and it describes in lyrical terms how the masons built the structure all day long just to find that it collapsed overnight. Only divine intervention could save the bridge, and it came in the form of a message from a bird. The building of the bridge according to the message required the personal sacrifice of the foreman's beautiful wife. The poem revolves around the foreman's conflict between his own tragic personal loss, and the resulting common good. The conflict resolves itself with the tragic death of the young wife as she unknowingly becomes victim for the benefit of the greater society. This epic poem has survived through oral tradition for centuries. It combines the classic folklore themes of haunted bridges and human sacrifice.
"of the Bridge of Arta"
Master builders forty five and apprentices sixty
were laying the foundations for a bridge over the river of
Arta.They would toil at it all day, and at night it would
The master builders lament and the apprentices weep:
"Alas for all our exertions, woe to our labours,.
for us to toil all day, while at night it collapses!”
A little bird came by and sat across the river
It sang not like a bird, nor like a swallow does
But sang and spoke like people do:
"No bridge shall stand without a human soul
And no orphan, no traveler or stranger will suffice
Save only the chief mason's lovely wife
who later comes and brings him, by-and-by, his meal."
The chief mason hears and stops as though stricken
He sends a message to his beauty with the nightingale
To slowly dress, and slowly change, and tarry with the meal
That she be late and late she cross the bridge at Arta.
The bird, though, disobeyed and told her this:
"Swiftly dress, and swiftly change, and swiftly take the meal
swiftly go and cross the bridge at Arta."
These she goes and disappears, off the whitewashed path
The chief mason sees her and it breaks his heart
"A good day, and health to you, apprentices and masons
But what is it with the chief mason's stern demeanor?"
"His ring he dropped into the first deep chamber;
and who can go and who can find and fetch it?"
"Master, take heart, and I will go and get it
I'll go in, come out, and your ring I'll bring."
She neither got down far, nor did she reach the middle
"Pull, my dear, the chain; pull up the chains.
I've turned it inside out, yet nothing I have found."
One slaps on mortar with his trowel; another the asbestos;
The chief mason heaves and drops a giant stone.
"Alas,for our fate, woe to our destiny!We were three sisters,
and all three star-crossed.One of us built on the Danube,
the other on the Euphrates, And I, the youngest, on the
river of Arta. ‘May the bridge shake, like the rifles do,
May the pedestrians fall, like the leaves of a tree do’
"Girl, take that back, make it a different curse,
Because you have your only dear brother, lest he
happen to pass by." And she changed her word and
"When the wild mountains shake, then may the bridge
shake,And when the wild birds fall from the sky, then
may those who cross it fall. For I have a brother
in strange land, lest he happen to pass by."
Scrap Express No. 62
Vintage Journals No. 02
FONT: Arial monospaced, DJB Writes a lot
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| Date: Mon April 12, 2010
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Registered: December 2007
Location: Athens, Greece