17th Portuguese Bridge – FANOS Ethiopia Tours

Near to the Monastery of Debre Libanos a 17th century Portuguese Bridge settled at the head of
a gorge that cleaves its way through the plateau towards the distant Abay (Blue Nile) river. The bridge itself is a structure of considerable interest. In its appearance and its method of building it is similar to other bridges far to the north, in Gojjam and in the Gondar region and constructed in the 17th century either by Indian or Portuguese masons before the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1633, or later in the same century during the subsequent Gondarine period. If indeed the bridge is no more than little over a century old - rather than four centuries or so old - it would still remain as an impressive testimony to masonry skills enduring in the country that were inherited from the much earlier Gondarine period.

From bank to bank it is 33 meters long, ten meters high above the perennial stream, and of three arches. The largest and central arch spans two large boulders, pillars which nature has helpfully provided across the stream bed. Low castellations line the 2.75 meter roadway on top. So skilfully has the bridge been built that, in places, it is hard to see where its masonry meets with the natural rock beneath.