The Maria Pia railway bridge, one of several bridges that cross Oporto’s Douro River, has been voted one of the ’10 Best Bridges’ in the world by the respected Guardian newspaper.
Completed in 1877, the Maria Pia is “a simple diagram of necessity – a railway line had to be brought across the river Douro and it was impossible to build piers on the river bed”, the Guardian writes.
Because of this predicament, history has it, Gustav Eiffel devised an arch wider than any previously built, “its structure widening where the forces are greater, with the dead-straight line of the tracks above.
“Sometimes untested techniques were used to keep it light and to solve the problem of keeping it up during construction, before the arch was complete. Yet this work of pure engineering also succeeds in being an emblem of its city, something Eiffel would achieve later with a tower in Paris”, the Guardian elaborates.
Spanning 60 metres and built entirely from wrought iron, construction on the bridge was completed on 1 October 1877 and the bridge was opened on 4 November 1877 by King Luís I of Portugal, who named it after his queen, Maria Pia.
It sits on the Guardian’s top-10 list alongside other fascinating structures such as French viaducts, Indian root-bridges, and Welsh aqueducts.