Ponte del Cappello - Atlas Obscura

Ponte del Cappello

Brembilla, Italy

Can you see the face staring out at you from the buttress of this bridge? 


Ponte del Cappello is a humpback bridge, meaning an arch bridge where the span is higher than the ramps. The exact date of its construction is unknown, but many estimates date it back to the 13th century. This bridge over the Brembilla Stream used to be the only connection between the villages of Brembilla and Ubiale. Measuring 18 meters in length and one meter in width, Ponte del Cappello was mainly used for transport by means of mule and donkey. 

On the Ubiale side of the bridge, the buttress is adorned with a face with bulging eyes. In the old times, parents would threaten their misbehaving children by showing them the “ugly face.” For years, the face was thought to be that of a human figure, but from some angles, it is clearly the face of a lion.

The engraving of a lion in a stone was not uncommon during the 15th century, as the Republic of Venice controlled this area, and their symbol was the lion. Exposure to the elements explains the erasure of some leonine traits, and pareidolia eventually anthropomorphized what was left of the engraving. It’s likely that the stone with the lion face was originally placed on the upper part of the bridge until the major flood of 1795, when the bridge was damaged and then reconstructed. This stone was probably repurposed to reinforce the buttress, explaining the unconventional position of the stone. 

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December 6, 2023

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