Bridge chapel

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The 12th century Chapel of Saint Nicholas, built on a pier of the Pont Saint-Bénézet, Avignon.

A bridge chapel is a small place of Christian worship, built either on, or immediately adjacent to, a road bridge; they were commonly established during pre-Reformation mediaeval era in Europe.

Although sometimes built on land at the very start of the bridge, bridge chapels were often built into the bridge structure itself, usually on one of the piers which had been made especially large for the purpose.[1] These chapels were intended to minister to the spiritual needs of travellers passing over the bridge. Many were established as chantries, where a priest was employed to say masses for passers by and for the repose of the souls of the bridge's benefactors. In some instances, the priest would be responsible for collecting tolls from bridge users.[2] The cost of maintaining a priest or chaplain could be very high, so some less well endowed bridges had a resident hermit, whose duties, including collecting tolls and working on repairs, were regarded as acts of religious devotion.[3]

In England, the end of these institutions came with the Reformation, when the Abolition of Chantries Acts, 1545 and 1547 led either to their demolition or to their conversion to secular use.[2]

Some notable examples[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Morriss, Richard K (2004), Roads: Archaeology and Architecture, The History Press, ISBN 978-0752428871 (p. 202)
  2. ^ a b Cook, Martin (1998) Medieval Bridges Archived 2015-09-29 at the Wayback Machine, Shire Publications Ltd, ISBN 978-0747803843 (pp. 38-42)
  3. ^ Harrison, David (2004). The Bridges of Medieval England Transport and Society 400-1800. Clarendon Press. pp. 199–200. ISBN 978-0199272747.