Medieval bridge faces troubled waters in Belgium

The demolition of a historic bridge across a Belgian river is triggering fears among residents of Tournai that the city symbol will be disfigured permanently when a new span replaces it.

Medieval bridge faces troubled waters in Belgium
Workers pressed ahead with demolishing the arches which were rebuilt after World War II when British troops blew
up the original medieval bridge over the Scheldt at Tournai [Credit: Philippe Huguen/AFP]

The authorities insist they chose the most cost-effective option to build a new crossing that will allow larger barges to sail underneath while preserving the character of the medieval monument, known locally as the «bridge of holes».

Workers pressed ahead on Friday with demolishing the arches which were rebuilt after World War II when British troops blew up the original span, along with Tournai’s other bridges, to slow the Nazi invasion of Belgium in May 1940.

Charles Deligne, curator of the city’s military museum, confessed he felt «some anger» after the authorities rejected plans for a bypass canal and began demolishing the bridge a week ago.

«I am also enormously disappointed because we missed a great opportunity,» Deligne said, wistfully recalling the beauty of the bridge that appears in a pre-war photograph in his museum.

«The bypass option would have been esthetically a very beautiful option,» he added.

Medieval bridge faces troubled waters in Belgium
A construction worker watches as the «Pont des Trous» medieval bridge is being demolished by a crane in Tournai,
where the Scheldt river will be enlarged to allow larger ships to pass [Credit: John Thys/AFP]

Deligne warned the middle of the three arches in the new version would be so high as to vastly alter the medieval style that was largely retained in the post-war reconstruction.

The two fortified stone towers on either side of the river are more or less the same as they were when first built in the 14th century.

Christophe Van Muysen, the project’s inspector for the French-speaking Wallonia region, played down the way the bridge over the Scheldt river will look in the future.

«It will have the same medieval appearance, but the arch will be bigger geometrically,» Van Muysen told AFP as a crane’s maw and drill demolished the arches, debris splashing into the water.

He said the multi-million euro demolition and reconstruction project will allow far larger barges to navigate the Scheldt from the northern Belgian port of Antwerp to the Seine River basin in France.

Medieval bridge faces troubled waters in Belgium
Completed in 1329, the ‘bridge of holes’ helped defend the city against the army
of King Edward III of England [Credit: John Thys/AFP]

Van Muysen added that the project, partly financed by the European Union, also aims indirectly to reduce the number of trucks plying Europe’s clogged highways and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

He said the bypass canal would have been prohibitively expensive and required the expropriation of 30 properties.

Tournai resident Philippe Bobin told AFP he was shocked to see such an important monument, one he has known for four decades, being partly demolished.

«It’s one of the symbols of Tournai,» he said.

Built when Tournai was loyal to King Philip VI of France, Deligne said, the monument is a rare existing example of defences where a grill dropped into a river to block enemy boats.

Medieval bridge faces troubled waters in Belgium
Tournai authorities insist they chose the most cost-effective option to build a new crossing that will allow larger
barges to sail underneath while preserving the medieval monument’s character [Credit: John Thys/AFP]

Completed in 1329, it helped defend the city against the army of King Edward III of England. Tournai fell briefly under the rule of Henry VII less than two centuries later.

Deligne said residents felt no bitterness toward the British troops for blowing up the bridge, adding it paled in comparison to the destruction the Nazis wrought.

He added that the British troops retreated within the week to the French port of Dunkirk, joining the historic evacuation back to Britain.

Author: Lachlan Carmichael | Source: AFP [August 10, 2019]

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Batted Away Occurring mainly in India and Bangladesh, the…

Batted Away

Occurring mainly in India and Bangladesh, the zoonotic Nipah virus (pictured, in orange, on the surface of a cell) can be transmitted from fruit bats to humans, and then between humans too. Symptoms include severe respiratory disease and inflammation of the brain, or encephalitis, often with fatal consequences, yet few treatments exist. Recent experiments found that remdesivir, a drug currently being tested as treatment for Ebola, could combat the effects of Nipah virus in monkeys. Twenty-four hours after receiving an otherwise lethal dose of Nipah virus, four African green monkeys were treated with remdesivir for twelve days; while some developed mild symptoms, all were eventually cleared of active virus, and survived to the end of the three month-long trial. How effective the drug would be if administered longer after infection remains to be tested, but these encouraging results suggest remdesivir could be a useful tool in fighting future outbreaks.

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Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China

Two ancient tombs with delicate stone reliefs were discovered in Jinan, capital of east China’s Shandong Province, local archaeological authorities said Wednesday.

Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Credit: Sina

Located in Jinan’s Jiyang District, the tombs are believed to date back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), according to the city’s institute of archaeology. They were found when local residents dredged a pond at the end of 2018.
After nearly four months of archaeological excavation work, a total of almost 60 stone reliefs and more than 90 portraits were unearthed in the tombs. They vividly depict scenes of daily life in ancient times, in addittion to several portraits of goat heads, which are commonly seen in tombs with stone reliefs in the region.

Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Credit: Sina

Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Credit: Sina

The approximately 20-meter-long and 15-meter-wide tomb is said to be the largest double-passage tombs with stone reliefs from the Han Dynasty ever found in Jinan.
Besides abundant stone reliefs, the tombs contained a great number and variety of pottery, porcelains, bone objects, stoneware and bronze coins, as well as animal bones, said local archaeologists.

Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Credit: Sina

Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Han Dynasty tombs discovered in east China
Credit: Sina

Though the tombs had been disturbed, the whole structure is well preserved, providing new archaeological material for the study of funeral customs in the Han Dynasty, said Chen Yongting, leader of the excavation team.

Stone reliefs were an important building component of palaces, ancestral temples and tombs in the Han Dynasty.

Source: Xinhua News Agency [August 08, 2019]

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