Lions & Bridge

  Bridge of Lions

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New!

Now You Can Have Your Own Set of Medici Lion Statuettes
Modeled after the Statues on the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, Florida!
Availability may be limited
Learn more at Medici Lion statuettes 
 
      
                                                                   
When I arrived in St. Augustine for the first time in August of 2010, the Bridge of Lions was under construction and was inaccessible. To cross the Matanzas River from St. Augustine to Anastasia Island required taking a temporary bridge that ran alongside it.
My taxi's driver said the reconstruction had been going on for several years and the bridge was to be restored to its original state as accurately as possible. He thought it might be completed the following year and seemed quite proud of it. It wasn't possible for me to see what the Bridge of Lions looked like from the window of the taxi. It looked and sounded like any bridge under construction with cement dust swirling and equipment humming loudly. Construction workers wearing yellow hardhats and bright orange vests created a colorful contrast to the chalky white cement that seemed to permeate the scene. It was a sunny and hot summer day and I wondered how hot the hardhats must be for the men.
Bridge of Lions 
Bridge of Lions

 

Bridge of Lions Back in Service

When I returned to St. Augustine a year later, the Bridge of Lions was completed and the temporary bridge had been sunk into the Atlantic to make an artificial reef. A pair of white marble lions donned the western entrance to the bridge in St. Augustine's historic district. I later learned the statues were replicas of the Medici & Vacca Lions in Florence, Italy. They're often referred to simply as the Medici Lions. I was beginning to appreciate what the taxi driver's excitement had been about. 

What struck me first and foremost was the color of the steel railings along the bridge. They were painted a shade of green that recalled my earlier life in Wisconsin. They were reminiscent of the green used as an accent color in buildings and on entrance ways in the shopping district in Milwaukee. It was a green from an earlier era. The same green the accents on my Grandmother's cast iron bed had once been. The same bed that would soon be in our guest room. It must have been a color very much in vogue in the 1920's and I always thought it had a certain class to it.

Jeff and I were moving to the City of St. Augustine Beach, just four miles from the Ancient City on the other side of the bridge. It was Jeff's first visit to St. Augustine and my second. We had been living on a small island in the Caribbean for nearly nine years and living near a vibrant city like St. Augustine was full of possibilities for us. We had so much to learn and do in this wonderful new place we'd be calling home, we knew we'd be like children in a candy store for some time.

In our first years in St. Augustine, most of what we learned about the Bridge of Lions and the Medici Lions guarding it we learned on Old City Trolley Tours. We'd take family and friends on the tours whenever they'd visit the first time. The bridge had been built in 1926 and the lions were a gift to the city from Dr Andrew Anderson. During those years we came to greatly appreciated the bridge and the beautiful lions that adorned it. However, it wasn't until I decided to have replica statuettes of the lions made that I delved a little more into the history of the lions and the bridge. 

The Old Bridge

There was an old wooden bridge that preceded the Bridge of Lions. It was a low-rise trolley bridge that could be opened to allow ships through and a toll was charged. It was alternately called “The Bridge to Anastasia Island” and “The South Beach Railroad Bridge.” (1) Wikipedia: Bridge of Lions In the early 1920's the old wooden bridge was showing its age and frequently broke down. The city realized it was time to build a new one.

Henry Rodenbaugh

In came Henry Rodenbaugh, president and bridge expert for Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway. He envisioned a structure that would be more than just a vehicle and foot-passenger bridge. He wanted it to also be a work of art. He brought together investors to finance the bridge and selected engineer, J.E. Greiner to design it. Henry Rodenbaugh is remembered as the “Father of the Bridge of Lions.” Construction on the bridge lasted two years and cost ten times more than other bridges constructed in its time. (1) Wikipedia: Bridge of Lions

Medici Lion Statue on Bridge of Lions
The Two Lions are Named Fiel y Firme or Latin for Faithful and Firm
Bridge of Lions Medici Lion Statue

 

Medici & Vacca Lions on steps of Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, Italy

Medici and Vacca Lions
            Photo courtesy of my brother, Tom Nettesheim          

 

Dr. Andrew Anderson 

 

Dr. Andrew Anderson was a physician and a previous mayor of St. Augustine. In his later years, he gifted a number of statues and other works of art to the city. The Medici lions were his final gift to St. Augustine. He had the lion statues carved out of Carrara marble by Romanelli Studios in Florence, Italy where the original Medici & Vacca Lions reside. Dr. Anderson passed away in 1924 and didn't live to see the lions installed at the bridge. The bridge was named for the lions. (2) Wikipedia: Medici Lions

Jeff and I have traversed the bridge many times since that first day, sometimes by car and sometimes by foot or on bikes. We've become familiar with its beautiful watchtowers. Waiting for ships to pass through never seems like anything but a chance to stop and admire the drawbridge and take in the views of the river and Europeanesque cityscape.

Today the bridge is still considered one of the most beautiful in the South. It's a focal point of the city and the lions are beloved icons. The bridge and the lions are among the most photographed attractions in the St. Augustine. 

New Lions
Named Pax y Peli or Latin for Peace and Happiness

New Lions for the Bridge

On July 2nd, 2015 a second pair of lions was unveiled at the eastern end of the bridge in Davis Park on Anastasia Island. They were gifted to the City of St. Augustine by Wolfgang and Miki Schau, residents of Davis Shores on the island. Like many others, they fell in love with the bridge and the lions guarding it. They first set eyes on the bridge as they approached it in their catamaran in 2010. They have called St. Augustine home since. The Schaus have named the new lions Pax y Peli or Latin for Peace and Happiness. What fitting names for the sisters to the original lions named Fiel y Firme or Latin for Faithful and Firm.

******
New!

Now You Can Have Your Own Set of Medici Lion Statuettes
Modeled after the Statues on the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, Florida
Availability may be limited

Learn more at Medici Lion statuettes

      

                                                               

Footnotes:

1 Wikipedia Bridge of Lions

2 Wikipedia Medici Lions

 

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