The project to restore and reconstruct the historic Plaka Bridge in Epirus has won one of 24 European Heritage Awards/ Europa Nostra Awards in 2021 handed out on Tuesday.
The Plaka Bridge, which was washed away by a flash flood in 2015, was awarded for “exemplary achievements” in the heritage field.
The Plaka bridge was one of the conservation achievements awarded in 2021, while Europa Nostra awards were also given to two research projects in which Greece collaborated: Fibranet (FIBres in ANcient European Textiles – on preserving ancient fabrics), a joint project with Denmark, and “Control Shift – European Industrial Heritage Reuse in Review” with the Netherlands.
According to a culture ministry announcement, the awards to the 24 entries from 18 countries were announced in a live online event on Tuesday, with the winners selected among entries from 30 countries by independent committees made up of cultural heritage experts from all over Europe.
“Greece today won an particularly important distinction, the 2021 Europa Nostra Award, for the exemplary restoration of the Plaka Bridge in Epirus,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said.
Plaka Bridge: the largest single-arched span in Europe
The Plaka bridge, the largest single-arched span in all of Europe, was restored to its former glory in 2020.
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,” the coordinator of the project Professor Dimitris Kaliambakos said at the time.
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.
History of the Bridge
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.
Between 1881 and 1912 (the First Balkan War), the bridge marked the border between the Kingdom of Greece and the Ottoman Empire, and a customs building was erected alongside it, which still survives.
Also, near the bridge there was an outpost of the Greek army and an inn. The bridge used to be a trade route, connecting Tzoumerka with Epirus and Thessaly.
During World War II, it was bombed by the Germans, and withstood the bombing with minor damage Locals repaired it using cement in 1943.
On 29 February 1944, during the Axis Occupation of Greece, the Treaty of Plaka was signed near the bridge among the armed groups of the Greek Resistance, EAM, EDES and EKKA.
According to the treaty resistance groups agreed to refrain from infringing on each others territory and that all future war efforts will be directed against the Germans. This marked the end of the “first round” of the Greek civil war which had started at October 12, 1943.