Admiral’s Bridge

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The Ponte dell’Ammiraglio (Admiral’s Bridge) is a splendid example of medieval civil architecture and is located at the southern edge of Palermo. Built around 1131 for Admiral George of Antioch, it is one of the landmarks included in the UNESCO site, Arab-Norman Palermo. The bridge is linked to an event that has gone down in history as the ‘Battle of Admiral’s Bridge’. In 1860, Garibaldi’s troops clashed with those of the Bourbons here. This battle was chosen by the painter, Renato Guttuso, as the subject of one of his most famous paintings.

History and architecture of the Ponte dell’Ammiraglio

The Ponte dell’Ammiraglio was built in 1131 to connect the city of Palermo to the gardens on the other side of the Oreto river. According to legend, the site chosen for the bridge is where Archangel Michael appeared to King Roger before he conquered the city. The bridge takes its name from the fact that its construction was commissioned by George of Antioch, admiral to King Roger II of Sicily. 

Interesting fact: Another building on Palermo’s Arab-Norman itinerary is also named after George of Antioch. This is the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, also known as Chiesa della Martorana, whose construction was also commissioned by the officer.

The Ponte dell’Ammiraglio is the only example of civil engineering from that time and is made of neatly squared ashlars made of tufa stone. It has a simple “humpback” structure, with seven oval arches, alternating with five smaller arches built into the pillars. The Oreto, one of Palermo’s rivers, once flowed under its arches, but was diverted in 1938 due to constant flooding.

The Battle of Admiral’s Bridge

Renato Guttuso's painting "The Battle of the Admiral's Bridge."
The Battle of Admiral’s Bridge, Renato Guttuso – Galleria degli Uffizi (Florence)

The Ponte dell’Ammiraglio is linked to an event that has gone down in history as the ‘Battle of Admiral’s Bridge’. On 27 May 1860, Garibaldi’s troops clashed with the Bourbons. The bridge was, in effect, a strategic access point to the city for those coming from the south. Garibaldi’s entry into the city led to a people’s uprising that facilitated the ‘Thousand’s’ conquest of Palermo. This event inspired Renato Guttuso, who chose it as the subject of one of his most famous paintings. The painter from Bagheria also chose this theme for personal reasons, as his grandfather had taken part in the battle. In the painting, entitled ‘The Battle of Admiral’s Bridge’ and currently on display in the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, there are clear references both to the French Romanticism of Delacroix and Géricault and to Picasso’s Guernica.

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