Online Encyclopedia

ALCANTARA

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V01, Page 518 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ALCANTARA, a town of western Spain, in the province of Caceres, situated on a rocky height on the left bank of the river Tagus, 7 M. from the Portuguese frontier. Pop. (1900) 3248. Alcantara (in Arab. "the bridge") owes its name to the magnificent Roman bridge which spans the Tagus on the north-west. This was originally built about A.D. 105, in honour of the Roman emperor Trajan and at the cost of eleven Lusitanian communities. It is entirely constructed of granite blocks, without cement, and consists of six arches of various sizes, with a total length of 616 feet and a height of about 190 ft. in the middle piers, which are surmounted by a fortified gateway. One of the arches was broken down in 1213 and rebuilt in 1553; another was blown up by the British troops in 18og, and, though temporarily reconstructed, was again destroyed in 1836, to prevent the passage of the Carlist forces. But in 186o the whole was restored. A small Roman temple, dedicated to Trajan and other deified emperors, stood on the left bank, adjoining the bridge. It is doubtful, however, if Alcantara marks the site of any Roman town, though archaeologists have sometimes identified it either with Norba Caesarea or with Interamnium. It first became famous about 1215 as the stronghold of the knightly Order of Alcantara. Many of the grand masters of this order lie buried in the 13th-century Gothic church. The town possesses another interesting church built in 1506. See Antiguedades y santos de la muy noble villa de Alcantara, by J. Arias de Quintanaduenas (Madrid, 1661); and Retrato politico de Alcantara, by L. Santibanez (Madrid, 1779).
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