The history of the bridges over the Morava River in Devínska Nová Ves is almost unknown although it is very interesting, even dramatic. Further on, the remarkable fact is that several primacies of our municipality are linked to it.
A road bridge was build here in the last third of the 18th century and a second one, a railroad bridge, was attached to it in 1847. Two great bridges were constructed in the area of the municipality, thus gaining the primacy for Devínska Nová Ves in all the Hungarian Kingdom. The town kept it for quite a long, almost half a century, when a new bridge was built in Budapest, next to the old chain bridge. The first bridge in Bratislava was erected only in 1895, the second in 1972. A different kind of primacy was linked to the railroad bridge during the war in 1866. It was the first time in the history of Slovakia and all of the monarchy, when a railroad bridge was demolished by the explosives. Sadly to say, successfully.
Whereas the railroad bridge is still in operation today, the existence of the old road bridge is marked only by the piles of earthworks. Very little is known about its history. Luckily, several forgotten records have been preserved in the City Archive of Bratislava. What is their testimony then?
The bridge was built in 1771, replacing the system of the so-called Marchegg bridges, which connected the banks of the Morava River in the Area of Devínske Jazero as soon as in the 16th century. How did it look like? The massive bridge body spanning over the river was made of wood construction with the length of 150 fathoms (270m).
The flow of the Morava was much wider, although more shallow before the river regulation. The construction was supported by the wooden pillars clamped into the riverbed. The access roads lead on the mounds of rubble stone which had vaulted culverts on several places in order to enable free flow of the water. After the bridge construction, the road connection leading via Devínska Nová Ves to Austria and via Dúbravka to Bratislava became more important – the fact testified by the border guardhouse, which replaced that of Stupava, because the road Vienna-Marchegg-Stupava- Bratislava had thus ceased to be used. It was considerably shorter to use the road through Devínska Nová Ves.
The strategic importance of the bridge grew further during the Napoleonic wars. In midst of November 1805, the French cavalry unexpectedly crossed the river through here and plundered the local villages for several days. It is said that their force counted 15,000 men. However, afterwards they joined the rest of the army in order to fight the victorious battle of Austerlitz on December 2.
The floating ice damaged the bridge in January 1809 and it was only the following year when the local governor Karol Palfi had the bridge repaired. The Works lasted 6 weeks and the reconstruction cost 102,000 thousand. Of course the currency has been devaluated by many paper banknotes, which were not worthy even of one tenth of the value of a silver coin and so everything was more expensive.
During the bloody war with Napoleon in spring and summer 1809 and the French army lacked the bridge very much. According to the military experts, Napoleon would have suffered a decisive defeat in the battle at the outskirts of Vienna in Aspern, if the bridge in Devínska Nová Ves had been crossed by the reinforcements from Hungary. However, the river broke its banks and the crossing of the rested troops was delayed. Well, if the bridge had been operational, the unlucky war with Napoleon would have been completely different.
After the war, a steady period of peace occurred and the bridge served again its purpose. Its main contribution was that the inhabitants of Záhorie and other regions could reach Vienna more easily, where the possibilities and the demand for goods and produce offered abundant work opportunities.
Another bridge across the Morava was started to be built in the area of Devínska Nová Ves in 1846. It was a railroad bridge connecting Vienna with Bratislava via Strasshof and Gänsendorf. The traffic first appeared there in August 1848. However, it did not last long until the bridges were put to the test again. The relations between Vienna and Budapest worsened in autumn 1848. The first skirmishes between Hungarian guards and the Imperial army broke out in early November 1848. One of the first battles took place on the road bridge of Devínska Nová Ves and the bridge was burnt down. The death toll rose to 30.
The bridge was repaired after the revolution. Then the dramatic moments came again in 1866. After the battle of Königgratz (Hradec Králové), the remainder of the Austrian army was retreating to Bratislava chased by the Prussian. Many were afraid, that they could advance from Záhorie to Vienna and so the orders were to blow up the railroad bridge and to dismantle the wooden part of the wooden bridge. Thus, the explosives destroyed the original pillars and vaulted portals of the railroad bridge across the Morava River on July 19 1866. Not even 5 days passed and the warring parties signed armistice in Mikulov. The destruction was completely superfluous. Costly repairs followed which caused the bridge to change in appearance.
Also the First World War had it say with the history of the bridges. Because of the low transport capacity, the supreme command of the imperial-royal army planned to make double the track from Vienna via Marchegg and Devínska Nová Ves, in order to speed up the shipping of personnel and ammunition to the Eastern front. The Italian POWs were assigned with the preparatory works for the bridge widening and access balasts, but when in 1917 Russia practically surrendered, the works stopped. The vain effort is marked by the concrete pillars for the planned bridge widening.
After the formation of Czechoslovakia, both the bridges lost its importance. They served its purpose, although the lively traffic from the period of the monarchy was lost. At the eve of the Second World War the bridges were damaged again, but shortly after went through repair. The railroad bridge was still in operation, even though the traffic decreased. The road bridge was at the verge of operability until 1949. However, the communist regime was not interested in developing the relations with the Austrian neighbours, although until 1955 Austria was controlled by the Soviets. A heavily guarded border zone was around the Morava was created in 1950 and soon it spanned several kilometres in width. Devínska Nová Ves was part of the border zone, where a special regime was introduced. The fate of the road bridge was at its end. Today, only humble ruins remind of its existence that lasted for 180 years. Will we ever see its rebirth?
Compilated by Ivan Mrva, based on the legacy of Lajoš Keméň in the City Archive of Bratislava and on the document Marchegg Bridges (Marcheggské mosty) by Ivan Mrva.