If the medieval legends are to be believed, the devil was a prolific architect. All around Europe are bridges known as the Devil’s Bridge, each with a story of soul-selling deals and outwitting satan. These stories that developed independently of each other likely were related to the gravity-defying structure of these bridges, the likes of which had rarely been seen and seemed beyond the possibilities of human hands.
Below are six (the devil’s traditional number) of these Devil’s Bridges with a most unholy story in their stones:
DEVIL’S BRIDGE OF CEREDIGION
Unholy Features: This Devil’s Bridge in Ceredigion, Wales, is actually three bridges stacked strangely on top of each other — the oldest at the bottom being from 1075-1200, the second from 1753, and the third from 1902 — all looming over a yawning ravine in the woods. You can descend to the oldest bridge on a set of stairs called Jacob’s Ladder.
DEVIL’S BRIDGE OF ARDINO
Unholy Features: The humpbacked Devil’s Bridge near Ardino, Bulgaria, has four odd gaping holes (built to monitor the water levels). The incredibly still water in the Arda River below perfectly reflects the mottled stones where bits of moss grow, while the surrounding hills can cast a reddish landscape in autumn when their dense trees change colors.
Deal with the Devil: This has a double legend. One is that the builder’s wife died while it was being constructed and her shadow became a part of it. But another goes that the devil himself walked over its arches while helping its construction and left a footprint.
PONTE DELLA MADDALENA
Borgo a Mozzano, Italy
Unholy Features: The Ponte della Maddalena in Borgo a Mozzano, Italy, is better known as Ponte del Diavolo, or Devil’s Bridge. The 11th century bridge looks like it’s lunging towards the opposite shore over the Serchio River with asymmetrical arches, the tallest at 60 feet. It’s also said to be an unsettling experience to walk over due to the strange rise of these arches.
Deal with the Devil: The tale is that the complicated bridge proved too much for the villagers to complete, so they begged the devil to finish it. As per usual, he requested the soul of the first to cross. The townspeople sent over a dog.
Unholy Features: The Teufelsbrücke, or Devil’s Bridge, over the cascading Reuss River near Andermatt, Switzerland, is harrowing just to drive over as it soars through the Schöllen Gorge. Yet crossing the river used to be fatal, so three bridges were perilously constructed over the same crossing. The first is long gone, but to get the point across a pink devil and a goat (see story below) were painted by the tunnel entrance into the cliff.
Deal with the Devil: Back in the 13th century for the first bridge, it’s said that the Andermatt villagers found building their bridge to be impossible. So they got the crafty devil to do it. But of course he wanted the first crosser’s soul. They sent a goat over. The devil flipped out and picked up a giant rock and was going to shatter the wood bridge, but an old woman with a cross scared him off. The stone he supposedly dropped is nearby.
PUENTE DEL DIABLO
Unholy Features: Puente del Diablo, or Pont del Diable in Catalan, in Martorell, Spain, has a curious architectural feature: a little chapel-shaped structure at the peak of what looks like an unstable arch. It’s actually keeping the arch steady with its weight, though the old form gives it an unusual silhouette. It also has the ruins of a Roman triumphal arch at one end.
Deal with the Devil: The story here is more jumbled, but has to do with the disbelief that human hands could have made such a bridge that could stand, and the structure would make a perfect place for the devil to request crossing souls (it was more likely used for tolls, though). It actually didn’t do well during the Spanish Civil War, however, and like much of the country required some rebuilding.
Unholy Features: If Pont Valentre in Cahors, France, looks imposing, that’s because it was built to be its own fortress. It never saw battle, but guarded its three peaked towers that loom over the river.
Deal with the Devil: The bridge took 70 years to finish, from 1308 and 1378. So it’s no surprise that there’s a story of the devil hurrying it along. Rather than some random soul, this time the devil wanted that of the builder. However, the builder said he would give him his soul only when the bridge was finished. For the water for the last batch of mortar, he gave the devil a sieve, so of course it could not be completely finished. The devil was none too pleased and stole a stone out of the central tower. Each time it was replaced, he would take it again overnight. When the bridge was being restored in the 19th century, the lead architect was inspired to replace the real missing stone with a sculpture of the the devil stealing the stone away.
Author: ALLISON MEIER
Main Photo Credits: Devil and Woman on Horseback
Photo credits: DEVIL’S BRIDGE OF CEREDIGION, Ceredigion, Wales, DEVIL’S BRIDGE OF ARDINO, Ardino, Bulgaria, PONTE DELLA MADDALENA, Borgo a Mozzano, Italy, TEUFELSBRUCKE, Andermatt, Switzerland, PUENTE DEL DIABLO, Martorell, Spain , PONT VALENTRE, Cahors, France