Wicked Attractions: 6 Devil's Bridges You Can Visit
By Michael Luo
Dozens of the European bridges that were built between 1000 and 1600 CE still stand today. The structures were so impressive at the time of their construction that medieval reasoning struggled to explain how they could exist. Locals believed the architectural feats were beyond man’s ability and they turned to legend—and in this case, the devil—for explanation. Regarded as the master architect behind these arches, Satan always demanded something in return for his services. Here are a few structures supposedly indebted to the evil spirit:
1. PONT VALENTRE // CAHORS, FRANCE
jameswberk, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
There are many ponts du diable ("devil’s bridges") in France, but Pont Valentre has a special distinction: It was built not only for safe passage, but also for battle. However, no bloodshed has ever taken place on the stone bridge (not even during the 1580 siege of Cahors, according to legend) and the three fortified towers still stand today.
Construction began in 1308 and wasn't completed until 1380, a decades-long delay that the French attributed to the devil. According to legend, the builder was so far behind in the bridge’s construction that he sold his soul to the devil, payable upon completion, with the stipulation that the devil follow his every command. When the bridge was almost done, the builder demanded that some water be brought to him in a sieve. Unable to complete the task, the devil angrily left, and took his revenge by continually stealing a stone from the center tower.
2. DEVIL'S BRIDGE OF CEREDIGION // DEVIL'S BRIDGE, WALES
Mark Kent, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Devil’s Bridge is both the name of the bridge and the village—of about 500 people—where the structure is located. Instead of one bridge, this devilish conduit is the composite of three bridges, each built on top of one another. The original bridge, likely built between 1075 and 1200, was thought to be unstable, so officials decided to layer it with a 1753 stone bridge. More than a century later, in 1901, an iron bridge was built over that one, creating today’s standing structure.
Many credit the devil as the bridge's architect because legend has it that the original bridge was seen as too difficult to have been constructed by humans. The story goes on to say that in payment for his services, the devil demanded the soul of the first living being to cross the bridge. But that "being" likely wasn't who he expected. An elderly woman tricked the devil by throwing bread onto the bridge, which drew her dog across. Some argue that dogs who cross the bridge today are possessed by Satan.
3. PONTE DELLA MADDALENA // BORGO A MOZZANO, ITALY
John W. Schulze, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
The Bridge of Mary Magdalene runs along the Serchio river in the Lucca province, a site known for medieval Roman roads that travel to and from France. The structure was likely commissioned by the Countess Matilda of Tuscany and renovated circa 1300 by the then-duke of Lucca, Castruccio Castracani.
Taking its name from the statue of Mary Magdalene that stands at the eastern foot of the bridge, it holds a similar legend of the devil claiming any souls who cross. But the bridge's structure is what makes it unique. Its asymmetrical arch resembles an outreaching hand, a design rumored to have been ordered by the Countess so that it would link the village to the Roman thermal baths.
4. DYAVOLSKI MOST // ARDINO, BULGARIA
Ali Eminov, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
The Devil’s Bridge of Ardino, Bulgaria rests in the ancient roads connecting Thrace to the northern Aegean Sea coast. Built between 1515 and 1518 by the architect Dimitar of the Ottoman Empire, Dyavolski is considered one of the grandest Bulgarian bridges of its time. A number of legends surround the structure, including a story that claims the builder’s wife, who passed away during the construction, haunts the structure with her shadow. Other tales suggest that the devil’s footprints can be found on the rocks.
As a result, locals are hesitant to cross the bridge after dark. However, during the day, visitors often make the trek, as they follow Sultan’s Trail, an international hiking trail that spans Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.
5. THE DEVIL'S BRIDGE AT KIRKBY LONSDALE // CUMBRIA, ENGLAND
Thedragontree, Wikicommons // Public Domain
The Devil's Bridge at Kirkby Lonsdale, which dates back to 1370, spans the historic River Lune. Created from gritstone ashlar by the monks of St Mary’s Abbey, York, this bridge was rumored to be constructed in order to offer a woman safe passage across the river. According to folklore, a female traveler's cow strayed across the pasture, where the bridge stands today. Eventually, rising water levels left the cow stranded from its owner. In order to reach her cow on the other side, the traveler made a deal with the devil. He would construct a bridge, and in return, she would give up the first living soul to cross the bridge as payment.
Some versions of the legend say that when the lady played the old dog trick (just as in the story from Devil's Bridge, Wales), the devil became so enraged that he broke off a great stone. Another version says that as the devil was collecting stones to build the bridge, his apron string broke, scattering giant stones all over the landscape; which explains the giant rocks strewn over England. Regardless, one of those stones—known as the Great Stone of Fourstones—now sits by Kirkby Lonsdale.
6. TEUFELSBRÜCKE // ANDERMATT, SWITZERLAND
A stunning feat of architecture overlooking the Reuss River in the Schöllenen Gorge, this Devil’s Bridge was first constructed out of wood in 1230. The original pathway was damaged during the Napoleonic wars and then remodeled in the 1820s. Almost a century later, in the 1950s, another bridge was built to stand by its side.
Locals claim that in the 13th century, when the devil was again tricked out of a human soul as repayment for constructing the bridge, he almost demolished the structure with a large stone. Fortunately, a holy woman stopped him with a cross.
The stone that the devil dropped has since taken on its own fame as the Devil’s Stone. It's even made a few appearances in Swiss advertisements for chocolate. In 1970, officials made plans to destroy the stone in order to make way for a motorway but locals campaigned against it—and won. Instead of destroying the 220-ton stone, it was moved to a new location.