Although sometimes built on land at the very start of the bridge, bridge chapels were often built into the bridge structure itself, usually on one of the piers which had been made especially large for the purpose. These chapels were intended to minister to the spiritual needs of travellers passing over the bridge. Many were established as chantries, where a priest was employed to say masses for passers by and sometimes for the repose of the souls of the bridge's benefactors. In some instances, the priest would be responsible for collecting tolls from bridge users. In England, the end of these institutions came with the Reformation, when the Abolition of Chantries Acts, 1545 and 1547 led either to their demolition or conversion to secular use.
Some notable examples
- Pont Saint-Bénézet, Avignon, France, Chapel of Saint Nicholas; 12th century, restored from 1878
- The Town Bridge, Bradford on Avon; England, a medieval chapel later rebuilt as a lock up
- St Ives Bridge, England, the Chapel of St Leger; completed in 1426 and restored in 1930
- Holzbrücke Rapperswil-Hurden, Switzerland, Heilig Hüsli; 15th century but rebuilt in stone in 1551
- Krämerbrücke, Erfurt, Germany, the Churches of St. Benedicti and St. Aegidien, the former was demolished in 1810
- High Bridge, Lincoln, England, Chapel of St Thomas Becket; built 1235 and demolished, 1762
- London Bridge, England, Chapel of St Thomas on the Bridge, completed 1209, rebuilt as a grocer's shop in 1553, mostly demolished in 1747 but the cellars in 1832.
- Pont del Diable, Martorell, Spain, built in 1283.
- Rotherham Bridge, England, the Chapel of Our Lady of Rotherham Bridge; built in 1483 and restored in 1927
- Chantry Bridge, Wakefield, England, the Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin; completed in 1356 and restored in 1842