Devil's Bridge

Devil's Bridge (Italian: Ponte del Diavolo) in Lanzo Torinese, northern Italy.

Devil's bridge is a term applied to dozens of ancient bridges, found primarily in Europe. Most of these bridges are stone or masonry arch bridges and represent a significant technological achievement in ancient architecture. Due to their unusual design, they were an object of fascination and stories in antiquity and medieval Europe.

Each of the Devil's bridges typically has a corresponding Devil-related myth or folktale regarding its origin. These stories vary widely depending on the region and beliefs. Some have the Devil as the builder of the bridge, relating to the precariousness or impossibility of such a bridge to last or exist in the first place, so much so that only the Devil himself could have built it. Others have the knowledge to build such bridges given to the mankind as a gift from the Devil as part of deal, pact or bargain between the Devil and local populace, usually in exchange for their souls.

Associated legendsEdit

 
Little Devil's Bridge (1809) by J. M. W. Turner

The bridges that fall into the Devil's Bridge category are so numerous that the legends about them form a special category in the Aarne-Thompson classification system for folktales (Number 1191).[1][unreliable source?] Some legends have elements of related folktale categories, for example Deceiving the Devil (AT #1196), The Devil's Contract (AT #756B), and The Master Builder legends.[citation needed]

One version of the tale presents the bridge builder and the Devil as adversaries. This reflects the fact that frequently, such as in the case of the Teufelsbrücke at the St Gotthard Pass, these bridges were built under such challenging conditions that successful completion of the bridge required a heroic effort on the part of the builders and the community, ensuring its legendary status.

Other versions of the legend feature an old lady or a simple herder who makes a pact with the Devil. In this version the devil agrees to build the bridge, and in return he will receive the first soul to cross it. After building the bridge (often overnight) the devil is outwitted by his adversary, for example by throwing bread to lure a dog over the bridge first, and is last seen descending into the water, bringing peace to the community.

In the case of the Steinerne Brücke in Regensburg, the legend speaks of the devil helping in a race between the builders of the bridge and of the cathedral (in fact a significantly later construction), and a slight bump in the middle of the bridge is said to result from the devil's leaping with rage upon being tricked out of his prize.

In the legend of Teufelsbrück in Hamburg, which only leads over a small stream, the carpenter had a pact with the devil, and he promised him the first soul crossing the bridge. On the day of inauguration, while the priest and county councillor debated who should step on the bridge first, a rabbit crossed it and the disappointed devil disappeared. A statue refers to the legend there.

The legend of Ponte della Maddalena in Borgo a Mozzano, Province of Lucca, tells of a local saint, often Saint Julian, the Hospitaller, who made the pact with the devil.[2] On the day of delivery, the saint sets fire to a dog or a pig that crosses the bridge and deceives the devil.

At Sens, a thirteenth century legend tells of an architect who sold his soul to the devil and then subsequently repented. M. le Curé of Sens, drove the devil away with holy water and an exorcism formula beginning with the words Vade retro satana, which he made the penitent repeat.[3] The formula was, at some time, incorporated into the design of the popular Saint Benedict Medal.

Most of the bridges that have received the Devil's Bridge appellation are remarkable in some regard, most often for the technological hurdles surpassed in building the bridge, but on occasion for its aesthetic grace as well, or for its economic or strategic importance to the community it serves.[citation needed]

List of bridgesEdit

FranceEdit

 
Pont du Diable in Céret, southern France

There are 49 Devil's Bridges in France,[4] including:

GermanyEdit

 
Rakotzbrücke, Azalea and Rhododendron Park KromlauSaxony, Germany

ItalyEdit

PortugalEdit

SloveniaEdit

SpainEdit

SwitzerlandEdit

United KingdomEdit

 
The three bridges of Devil's Bridge, Ceredigion, Wales

United StatesEdit

Other countriesEdit

See alsoEdit

  • Moon bridge - a highly rounded arched pedestrian bridge associated with gardens in China and Japan.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ D. L. Ashliman. "The Devil's Bridge: folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1191" (private website). Pittsburgh, USA: D. L. Ashliman. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  2. ^ Bernardi, Eduardo (2018). The Chronicles of Julian, the Hospitaller. New Zealand: Higuma Limited. pp. Books 1–5. ISBN 978-0-473-43697-1.
  3. ^ a b "Odd Phrases in Literature", The Irish Quarterly Review, Volume 6, Part 1, 1856, note p. 683
  4. ^ Graham Robb (2007). The Discovery of France. Hampshire, England: Picador. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-330-42761-6.
  5. ^ "Devil's Bridge". Ceredigion Tourism. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
  6. ^ "Devil's Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale". Engineering Timelines. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  7. ^ "Devils Bridge, Pennington". British listed buildings. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
  8. ^ "The Devils Bridge, Weston Super Mare". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
  9. ^ "The Devils Bridge Weston Park, Weston Underwood". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
  10. ^ Bill. "GREAT SEDONA HIKES". www.greatsedonahikes.com. Retrieved 2017-03-25.