Built in the first century B.C., this bridge crossed the Inner City Canal – then known as the Flumesello – that was part of the river Brenta; this is the sole survivor of the five bridges in the Roman city of Patavium. In the 1960s the canal was filled in and its course is now occupied by the streets Riviera Tito Livio and Riviera dei Ponti Romani. The name of the latter street is a reference to the remains of the five bridges within Roman Padua, each of which was a solid and elegant structure built out of large carved blocks of Costozza stone.
The San Lorenzo bridge is mentioned, as ‘Ponte Santo Stefano’, in medieval documents dating back as far as the ninth century; the name was due to the presence nearby of a Benedictine convent dedicated to that saint and would continue to be used until the fifteenth century (the site of the convent is now occupied by the Tito Livio High School). It was only in the sixteenth century that the growing importance of the neighbouring church of San Lorenzo led to the bridge being known by its present name (the church itself was suppressed in 1809, during the period of Napoleonic rule). Over time, the waterway was filled in and the structure was covered over. Though there is mention of the site of the bridge being unearthed in the eighteenth century, it was only during the excavation carried out in 1938 (as part of restoration of the University’s Palazzo del Bò) that the bridge was entirely brought to light. Now, more than two thousand years after its construction, one can see the solid remains of this ancient bridge, a survivor of flood waters and other destructive forces.
One reaches the bridge via the underpass near what was long regarded as the tomb of Antenor, the mythical founder of the city.