Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bridge of Sighs

photo by Sean AntonioliAny good gondolier knows about this piece of suspended architecture.

In a city like Venice, an enclosed bridge is unusual.
Equally rare is a bridge that spans a canal at the third-floor level.
Combine those things, and make that bridge connect the palace to the prison, and you've got a bridge that moves beyond famous, to infamous.

It is said that in the time of the Venetian Republic, freshly convicted felons would be ushered across this bridge to the prison to serve out their sentences. Those on their way to a life sentence were said to gaze out the windows of this odd enclosed bridge and sigh while looking at Venice for the last time.
Sighing their last breath of freedom.

If that's not depressing, I don't know what is.
Worse than a Country song written about a Greek tragedy.

Ahh, but it didn't take a bunch of overly amorous Venetians very long to realize that it was kinda fun to kiss while passing under such a bridge.
Similar to the thrill of cheating death.

This became so prevalent, that a tradition was born.
That tradition went from local custom to world famous "something-you've-gotta-do" with the release of the 1979 movie "A Little Romance", starring a very young Diane Lane.

Now, just about every week I encounter passengers who know about the custom of kissing under bridges, and some know about the kiss under the Bridge of Sighs.
Funny thing is - most of them think the sigh part has something to do with a lover's sigh, not a convicted felon's sigh.

I've heard a few variations on the theme, and I'm sure you have too.
The legend, as I have most often heard it, states that if a couple kisses under the Bridge of Sighs, in a gondola, as the sun sets, and the church bells ring...their love will last forever.

I've recently been told that while the legend is perfect for stories and exactly the kind of thing tour guides are apt to share, the bridge wasn't constructed until after such sentences were done away with. Whatever the case may be, folks love the story so it lives on.

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