Logo of the City of Heidelberg, Old Town Information, Photographs showing several sights of Heidelberg: Old Bridge and Castle, Town Hall, Bridge gate, Karl's Gate

Old Bridge (Carl Theodor Bridge)

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 Old Bridge (Carl Theodor Bridge)

Friedrich Hölderlin wrote poems about it, and so did Gottfried Keller. Countless painters have also immortalized it in their works: the Old Bridge, whose real name is the Carl Theodor Bridge after the man who had it built. The bridge’s nine red sandstone arches span the Neckar River and blend harmoniously into their surroundings, framed by the river and mountains.

The Old Bridge is actually relatively young, and was preceded by many older bridges made of wood. The first bridge was recorded at this site in 1284. But like all of the wooden bridges that followed, it eventually fell prey to high water and ice. This finally prompted Prince Elector Carl Theodor – after a major flood with ice had destroyed the last wooden bridge in 1784 – to construct the first stone bridge in 1786-88. Raised bents in its middle allowed water to drain off quickly when the river flooded.

On March 29, 1945, one of the very last days of the War, German soldiers used explosives to render all of Heidelberg’s Neckar bridges impassable, including the Old Bridge. But thanks to a drive to collect donations that was enthusiastically supported by the town’s residents, work to rebuild it began as soon as March 14, 1946. It was inaugurated on July 26, 1947. In 2001 the Old Bridge was added to the World Monuments Fund, a list of the world’s most endangered monuments.