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Historic bridges of Iran

Si-o-se-pol in Isfahan

The articles in which some of the historical bridges of Iran will be introduced, are just to enumerate the examples of such structures that our skilled architects have built in our land, during several thousand years of Iranian history. These articles provide a brief overview of the bridges, which have been of great value in our structural civilization and make us familiar with this sector of Iranian architecture.

As a simple description: a bridge is considered a passage and arch like structure built for crossing valleys, pits, rivers and similar examples. Bridge arches are interconnected and built to cross natural dams. Iranians are among the pioneers in building bridges in the world’s architectural history. In the current Middle East, the oldest example of this structure dates back to four thousand years BC.

Iranian masters of architecture used various methods to build bridges. They built and strengthened the foundations of the bridge during seasons when the river’s water was low. A notable way that Iranians used to build bridges was that they avoided using scaffolding. Instead, they used plaster and brick mortar to make arches stuck together with arcs of brick blades. Mortar was also used for foundations and walls. This method was different from what the Romans built in other centuries. The Romans used scaffolding to build the bridge.

Another method that ancient Iranians used for building bridges was to use lime. They have known limestone shafts since at least the first millennium BC and used them to build structures. Lime had a great effect in stabilizing the bridges of Iran and protecting the foundations of the bridge against natural disasters. Later, the Greeks learned and used this method from the Iranians. Iranians started building bridges much earlier than the Europeans.

It should not be overlooked that many parts of Iran are deserts and dray and therefore do not need bridges for connecting. However, in the high mountains of Iran, such as the Zagros and Alborz, rainfall is abundant, and the river flow is rapid. The rising waters of rivers and streams make it very difficult for humans to cross them. That is why the Iranians built many bridges in the mountainous and fertile parts. In this way, it was easy to travel challenging parts of the mountain.

Masters of architecture consider Iranian bridges as a master piece of world art and architecture.  The structures connected the roads to each other and also made connections between mountains and deep valleys and vast plains. Many of those bridges were built with such care, precision and thoroughness that they have been able to survive and be used for millenia. An example of this is the Shahrestan Bridge in Isfahan province, which dates back to Achaemenid period, was rebuilt in later periods, and is still used for crossing.

Veresk Bridge in Mazandaran

Bridge construction in various historical periods of Iran

If we do not consider the primitive constructions like using tree trunks and huge rocks for crossing rivers, the oldest arched  bridge in the Iranian civilization region, remains of which can still be seen, are traced back to the Urartian period in the eighth century BC. The Aryan Urartians built the bridge over the Aras River.

All the historical signs testify that the Achaemenid civilization had remarkable engineering abilities in constructing the structures we call bridges. The Achaemenids had advanced architectural methods and built bridges, some of which are still standing. In the past few years, archaeologists have found a dam in Dorodzan, on the Kor River, which served as a bridge. This dam (bridge) was probably built in the time of Cyrus the Great.

The bridge, built during the Achaemenid period in Pasargadae and excavated by archaeologists, is 16 meters wide and is built on three rows of foundations. Each row contains five stone pillars. The surface of the bridge was also covered with wood. It is worth mentioning here that bridges were built on the royal road in Darius the Great period when road construction flourished. The route started from Lydia in Asia Minor and was 2500 km long. On this route, the bridge called Pol-e Dokhtar was built. This route ended in Susa city.

The bridges of the Sassanid era are also spectacular and stable, and they are considered as the most beautiful examples of architecture in Iran. Abundance, variety and architectural arrangement of Sassanid bridges are rare. Sassanid ridges are more in number in the west and southwest of Iran.  The materials used in the construction of Sassanid bridges are amazing new in that era. Especially, during the reign of Shapour l, bridge construction expanded and are evidence of outstanding achievements. Shadirwan Bridge in Shushtar and the bridge between Kor and Pol Dokhtar Lorestan are two excellent examples of bridge construction during the Sassanid period. Most of the bridges of that era were built (and its ruins stand upto date) in the present day province of Fars, Khuzestan, Lorestan, Ilam, Kermanshah, Kohgiluyeh, and Boyer-Ahmad. Let us also mention the Izeh Bridge, which was built in the time of Ardeshir Babakan and is truly a masterpiece of bridge construction, and one of the wonders of architecture of the world.

In the other centuries and times after the Sassanids, the art of bridge-building continued in Iran. Especially in the 11th century, during the Safavid dynasty, many bridges were built. Two prominent examples are the Khajoo Bridge and Si-o-seh (thirty-three) bridge in Isfahan. The expansion of roads and the construction of numerous caravanserais during the Safavid rule increased the need for construction of bridges. During the Qajar dynasty, the art of bridge-building in Iran more or less continued: This was necessary because of the structure of roads. During the reign of the first king of the Pahlavi Dynasty, the famous Veresk Bridge was built from Tehran to Gorgan, which is again an outstanding and rare example of bridge-building.  This bridge has recently been registered globally.

Kashgan Bridge, 35 km from Khorramabad, Lorestan

The capital of Iran’s historical bridges

Lorestan is the land of historical bridges of Iran because more than 77 historical bridges have been registered in this province, the history of which dates back to the Parthian, Sassanid, Islamic, and Qajar eras. Kashkan (in the dialect of Lori Kashgo), known as the mother of the bridge of Iran, is located in this western part of our country.

Several historic bridges in Iran

In the sequential articles of “Historic bridges of Iran”, we will mention 30 ancient bridges with prominent values in the art of architecture and bridge construction in Iran. Here is a list of some of them. More information about these bridges can be found in the next article.

  • Shushtar Shadirwan Bridge; This bridge was built on the river Dez during the Sassanid Shapur (260 AD) and at his request and is one of the most beautiful bridges of the Sassanid era.
  • Shahrestan Bridge; is three kilometers east of Khajoo Bridge in Isfahan, built during the Sassanid era.
  •  Shapouri Bridge was built in Shapurkhast (Khorramabad, Lorestan) and connected the western road from the Seimare River to Tarhan.
  • Dare Shahr Bridge; at the foot of Kavar mountain (Kabirkuh) in Seimare, present-day Ilam province. This bridge had four supports (columns).
  •  Cham Namasht Bridge: A remnant of the Sassanid era, built on the Seimare River, and its construction is arched.
  •  Izaj Bridge; was built during the Sassanid era and was rebuilt in the time of Al-Buwayh, in the fifth lunar century.
  • Kashkan Bridge; In Lorestan province, 52 km from Khorramabad-Kuhdasht road.
  • Gavmishan Bridge; East of Samireh in Ilam province. It was built in the first centuries of Islam.
  • Pol Dokhtar; is located southeast of the central city on the Ghezel Ozan River in Qaflankuh. It is believed that it was built in the ninth century.
  • Qarajay Bridge; On the Hamedan-Kermanshah road with four spans.
  • Si-o-se-pol; is one of the most famous bridges of the Safavid era in Isfahan.
  • Khajoo Bridge; From the Safavid period in Isfahan
  • Khatoon Bridge; In the city of Khoy, which was built in the twelfth century in the Zandieh period
  • Chalan Chulan Bridge; In the Boroujerd-Dorod pivot in Lorestan province and a remnant of the Qajar period.
  • Veresk Bridge; built in the time of the first king of Pahlavi dynasty, in the north of the country.

* Using the book “The Bridges of Iran,” written by Manouchehr Ehteshami (Cultural Research Office, 2007); also: “Hamshahri Online” website.

 

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