Rainbow bridge originally referred only to a structure from Norse mythology, a fabled Bifrost, but after many centuries the term rainbow bridge became closely connected with numerous man-made structures, natural structures, and works of art.
As its name suggests, the term “rainbow bridge” is connected with the natural phenomenon of rainbow, often being represented in manmade structures or works of art that exhibit perfectly smooth and arcing rainbow-like form, bridge-like structure colored the same way as a rainbow, or in some cases, the mere visual spectacle of an impressive structure can earn it the name of a “rainbow bridge”. Sometimes, Bible quotes that describe the heavens can also provide inspiration for naming a rainbow bridge.
In the Norse myths, rainbow bridge Bifrost was also defined by a presence of “instability,” “trembling effect” and presence of supernatural effects of fire and magic. Some artists have incorporated these effects into their fictional rainbow bridge-like structures. Additionally, the core ability of a Norse Bifrost was connecting our real world with the supernatural realm of the gods. This feature of Bifrost is heavily exploited in the numerous works of art, including poems, paintings, novels, movies, theatre, comics and other.
Over the last century, several bridges received name Rainbow Bridge, either because of their perceived similarity to the Nordic myth bridge Bifrost or because of their impressive size, design or illumination.
An old 1923 bridge that spans Brush Creek near Riverton, Kansas has never impressed anyone with its size, but its design of a single segmented arch immediately made people think about rainbows. Initially, part of the now former U.S. Route 66, this country road was placed on the United States National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as a notable Kansas state landmark. While the bridge was covered in graffiti for most of its life, it was recently repainted into white.
The city of Niagara Falls is famous not only for its natural wonders but also because of their impressive Rainbow Bridge that connects two halves of the city located in Ontario, Canada and New York, United States . Built during 1941 as the replacement of the old Honeymoon Bridge that collapsed in 1983, the majestic arch of the Rainbow Bridge immediately made it one of the most impressive bridges in the entire world. The name Rainbow Bridge was not initially an official one, but it became so after a decade of usage by city residents. Origin of this name can be traced to the engraving of the bible passage on the Canadian side of the bridge that referenced as “bow in the clouds. The bridge received such nickname even during its construction.
Not all bridges named by mythical Bifrost need to be large and majestic. A tasteful execution of simple design can also easily give bridge everything that it needs to become iconic and remembered. One of such bridges is a small curved footbridge over the River Cherwell in the University Parks, Oxford, England. Constructed in 1923-4 by unemployed workers under the commission of the University of Oxford and others, this bridge features a single concrete arch with metal railings, very much resembling a shape of a rainbow.
The area of Oxford, England, features not one, but two Rainbow Bridges! This second one is also built for pedestrian foot traffic but is older and visually more appealing than its newer brother. It is located near the village of Binsey in Oxford, England, and its single-arched iron design that reaches 3 meters in the air dates all the way back to 1865. The bridge was restored in 1997 when a new plaque was added confirming its name as a Rainbow Bridge.
The area of Port Arthur in Texas, United States features one of the most impressive bridges in the United States that spans large Neches River. Built to be a part of State Highway 87 and State Highway 73, one of the main features of this bridge are its highly elevated design and an impressive main 210-meter span that allows unusually high vertical clearance below the main deck of 54 meters. This allowed the nearby Bethlehem Steel Beaumont Shipyard to become the main source of production of large and very tall offshore drilling rigs. As of 1997, Rainbow Bridge handles only westbound traffic, while eastbound is routed to the accompanying Veterans Memorial Bridge cable-stayed bridge.
Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo is an example of majestic engineering that immediately captured the imagination and support of anyone who has seen it in person. Located in the Tokyo Bay and connecting the Shibaura Pier and the Odaiba waterfront in Minato, Tokyo, Japan, this 798-meter-long bridge has three main spans, with the central cable-stayed span of 570 meters and water clearance of 49 meters. Two white towers of the bridge were designed to blend in into the look of the nearby Tokyo, and built-in nighttime illumination of the bridge can paint the entire structure in rainbow-like patterns of colors. While it is officially called " Shuto Expressway No. 11 Daiba Route - Port of Tokyo Connector Bridge ”, the public immediately named it “Rainbow Bridge.”
The US state of Washington also has its own Rainbow Bridge. It is a simple but visually very appealing deck arch bridge that spans the Swinomish Channel in Skagit County between Fidalgo Island and La Conner. Built during 1957 from steel, this red-painted bridge has a total length of 242.9 meters (796.9 ft.) and a single span of 176.80 meters (580.1 ft.). Its central arch starts directly at the shore of the channel, goes up to the decking level and in a big arch all the way to the other shore. The arch very much resembles a rainbow.
Natural processes can also create structures that very much resemble bridges and rainbows. While such structures are often rare, each of them instantly attracts the attention of the public and the efforts for their preservation. Natural rainbow bridges created out of stone are known to exist in several places across the world, but they can also be created out of other less durable materials such as ice and dirt.
The area of the Navaho Mountains in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, southern Utah, United States is famous for numerous heritage sites and natural structures, including the presence of stone bridge structure that is named Rainbow Bridge. Created out of stone that was naturally molded by weather and erosion phenomenon, this stone structure has a reported span of 234 feet (71 m), it reaches 42 feet (13 m) high and has a thickness of 33 feet (10 m) at the very top. The history of this object is closely connected with the heritage of some Native American tribes. Because of it, the Rainbow Bridge structure and the area around it have been designed a Traditional Cultural Property by the National Park Service in 1910. The bridge is visited by more than 80 thousand tourists each year.
The theme of supernatural bridges can be noted in several cultures and beliefs, modern culture, art, and multimedia. The defining version of this supernatural structure is traced from the writings and archeological findings in Scandinavia and its fabled Bifrost. Today, the influence of Bifrost is present in almost all other supernatural bridges of similar type, with the theme of the rainbow and connecting of the physical and spiritual realm being one of the most common.
Bifrost is an important part of Nordic mythology and is the most popular supernatural bridge in our history. It is mentioned numerous times in the European Middle Ages writings, preserved songs and from and surviving archeological writings from even earlier periods, and has served as an inspiration for naming of many other real and supernatural rainbow bridges.
Described as a shimmering or transparent bridge made out of rainbow colors, often imbued with the supernatural power, this bridge serves as a connection point between our world and the land of the gods called Asgard. The myths surrounding the bridge tell of the time when the bridge would be destroyed during the apocalyptic events of the Ragnarok – the final battle between the gods of Nordic mythology.
Rainbow bridges are not only present in supernatural myths or as the name of numerous real-world bridges and natural formations. It is also present in literature, and one of the most famous examples of it can be found in the poems that are connected to the afterlife of pets. In it, spirits of pets are described as being allowed to travel via a rainbow bridge to a perfect afterlife world, where they can play and live forever happy, in some versions, even being able to reunite with their owners before leaving to live together in heaven.
The popularity of this literary creation was fueled with two creations from the 1980s and 1990s – a short rainbow bridge pet story created by an unknown author, and a popular poem that was written by Steve and Diane Bodofsky. Immediately after their publication, the story about the rainbow bridge for pets gained worldwide popularity, spawning many other works of art, most notably paintings, poems, short stories and items associated with its themes.
Many works of art have used the visual motif of bridges to showcase the historical scenes that are captured on canvas, walls, carvings or other mediums. One of the best examples of this can be found in the incredible panoramic painting created on a large scroll by Chinese Song dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145).
This 25.5 cm × 525 cm (10.0 in × 207 in) panoramic painting made on a handscroll has captured a moment in time in and around the city of the Northern Song era capital city Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng). The scene showcases the festive spirit and worldly commotion at the Qingming Festival, covering the look at the densely populated city streets of Bianjing city on the left side of the scroll, and the countryside on the right side, with numerous scenes of celebrations, economic activities, and ordinary scenes from life across this entire work of art.
In the middle of the image, just outside the city gates is the location of the famous great Rainbow Bridge (known as Hong Qiao or in some cases Shangtu Bridge). It is represented as a single-arched bridge across the calm river. On the bridge itself are not only passengers but also, similarly as in medieval European bridges, numerous vendors, and sellers, their stalls, and wares.
Today, “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” is praised as the most famed work of art from the Chinese Song dynasty. During the following centuries, many Chinese emperors commissioned creations of copies in both original and enlarged sizes, some being visually faithful to the original and some depicting brand-new scenes of life from the Chinese history. The painting was also immortalized by poems.