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The bridge you find today near Wangen a.d.Aare Fig. 1 is much younger: In 1367 a bridge is mentioned in a document of the count of Neuenburg-Nidau for the first time, but we have neither excavations nor pictures and so no idea what it looked like. In 1407 the small town Wangen Fig.2 was conquered by the Bernese, the town of Berne, which was then expanding in all directions. The little town was fortified and last but not least the bailiff was ordered to build a new covered bridge, that was safe to be used by pedestrians, horses and carts or wagons. At the north end even a door for defense was provided.


1480 was a very bad year with three days of uninterrupted precipitations. A famous chronicler, Diebold Schilling, reported in his illustrated book also about the bridge of Wangen, that it could bear up the flood, but repairs became necessary. In the same year many men were killed in a boat hitting against a pier, Schilling reported.

The piers made of timber piles were quite often damaged by floods, ice, rafts and boats. At that time rivers were very important means of transportation as roads were bad all over Europe.

1505 to 1520 again pile driving was necessary for damaged piers. In 1966, before construction of new piers, we took off oak piles out of the river bed, which came from a bridge with spans of about 23 to 27 feet. These are the same spans as used for bridge construction 1,500 years ago at the epoch, when the old Roman Empire constructed roads and bridges also in Switzerland.

Fig.2 Gate Tower built in 1407; after 1978 bus and trucks had to take the by-pass road

But after 1549 a new age arose in timber bridge construction for the covered bridge of Wangen, still now existing, 456 years old, which requires quite a bit of maintenance.

1552 is the date on the masonry stone pier Fig.3. In its whole size it was visible till 1967 but only in winter, when the river was low. Then the dam for an electric power plant rised the water up to the stone ring on which the struts for the reinforcements of 1934 are fixed. The water level of today is marked by a blue line.

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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267
This file posted March 7, 2008