The Plaka Bridge in Epirus, the largest single-arched span in all of Europe, which had collapsed due to heavy rain more than five years ago, has now been restored to its former glory, engineers working on the project announced on Tuesday.
“The historic bridge is ready and it is now being tested, so that it can open to public use after the summer,” Professor Dimitris Kaliambakos, the coordinator of the project, told reporters.
Speaking to the Athens Macedonia News Agency (AMNA), he explained that the metal skeleton which supported the bridge during the reconstruction work has now been removed.
“The big crash test begins,” the National Technical University of Athens professor then added, describing the project as “the world’s largest stone bridge restoration.”
An interdisciplinary team of experts, alongside dozens of craftsmen and master stonemasons, worked on the project over the last several years.
“I am really proud by the effort of all these people who worked on these stones, one-by-one, to restore he bridge,” Kaliambakos said.
He added that the restoration was accomplished using no modern technologies whatsoever; neither was there any hidden metal reinforcement used in the rebuilding of the magnificent structure.
Kaliambakos explained that the technicians completed their work “by following the steps of master builder Kostas Bekas and his own craftsmen 150 years ago,” referring to the famous local builder from the nearby village of Pramanta who completed the bridge in 1866.
The result is “a bridge that is more than the twin brother of the original, it is a bridge with the same DNA”, Kaliambakos said with pride.
The bridge, which had been of the most impressive examples of Greek popular architecture, collapsed on February 1, 2015.
A flash flood caused by heavy rainfall caused the Arachthos River to rip the bridge’s foundations from the riverbanks, leading the central section of the bridge to collapse and be washed away.