Posted by: glue | April 30, 2011

Puente Trajan @ Alcantara

Pontem perpetui mansurum in saecula

How does memory serve (1966)?  Waking in the olive grove covered with flowers dropped during the night occupied the scene entirely.  When I finally searched for the site online, the few images featured an enormous bridge, built by the Romans around 106CE on the orders of the Emperor Trajan.  The ceremonial arch (forming a gate) bears the inscription in Latin: “I have built a bridge which will last forever”.  I remembered at once our hike to the river Tagus, rolling up our jeans to wade in the heat of the afternoon.  Standing 233 feet high, the spans towered over us.  Looking up, we saw several people watching from the bridge.  How could I have forgotten about this bridge?  Any reading of the Spanish memory as allegory today (Moment, Time) must take into account this bridge, whose very scale shouts next to the orchard (look at me!).

Sartre said “knowledge” is the bridge between consciousness (Being-For-Itself) and world (Being-In-Itself).  Could my decision have been that simple?  Kant proposed “imagination” as the bridge between Pure and Practical Reason (aesthetic judgment, taste).  Freud’s shorthand for primary process (conductive) associations in his patients was the “rat bridge” (the Rat Man case).  Find the bridge, or make one? Is that the instruction?


  1. The memory of Alcantara is a scene of decision, intimating through its elements the forces operating at all levels (microcosm, macrocosm). There is an encounter of four temporal dimensions: the olive orchard (seasonal cycle); the Roman bridge (historical chronology); human maturation (cultural stages, youth abroad); train schedule. Each one contributes to a conversation, a perplexity, forming an impasse. The scene records a pause, an opportunity (kairos), an invitation offered once only.

  2. « Alcàntara, Alcàntera, El-Qantarah and (El) Kantara are all transliterations of the Arabic word – al qantara – meaning “the bridge”. »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: