6 devil’s bridges and their legends

There are some structures in Europe that raised suspicion among the common people. And these six bridges are said to be linked directly to the gates of Hell

As unsettling as it sounds, these bridges are believed to be associated with the devil himself in some way. The technology and knowledge used for their construction were so advanced at the time that many considered them to be the work of the devil. Other times, the conditions to complete the bridge were so challenging that it required a monumental effort to complete the construction.

There are many tales surrounding these bridges. These depict the devil as the builder himself or as someone who lends his knowledge to build it. Sometimes, the devil makes a pact to build a bridge and in return, he receives the soul of the first person to cross it (or he’s deceived and receives the soul of a crossing animal).

Les Ferreres Aqueduct, Spain

This devil's bridge is part of the Roman aqueduct built to supply water to the ancient city of Tarraco — Shutterstock
This devil’s bridge is part of the Roman aqueduct built to supply water to the ancient city of Tarraco — Shutterstock
 

This ancient bridge was part of a Roman aqueduct constructed 2000 years ago to bring water to the ancient city of Tarraco, today’s Tarragona in Catalonia. It spans 249 metres (817 ft) and reaches a maximum height of 27 metres (89 ft). It consists of 2 levels of arches: the upper one has 25 arches, and the lower one has 11.

There are several variations of the same story of how the bridge came to be. There was once an elderly couple living in the forest near Tarraco. Every day they’d load their donkey with products to sell at a nearby market. To get to the market, they’d have to cross an old wooden bridge.

One day a storm came and washed the bridge away. The old couple were discussing how to cross the bridge when suddenly a strange-looking man appeared. Together they made a deal that he would build them a bridge in return for the first soul to cross it. 

The devil kept his word and built a solid stone bridge for them. However, the old woman cheated the devil when she slapped the donkey who then ran over the bridge.

Ceredigion, Wales, UK

The Ceredigion bridge consists of three bridges built on top of each other — Flickr
The Ceredigion bridge consists of three bridges built on top of each other — Flickr
 

The Devil’s Bridge/Pontarfynach in Ceredigion, Wales, is unusual because it actually consists of three bridges built on top of each other. The previous bridges were never demolished. 

The original bridge is medieval, dating back to 1075–1200, while the second one is a stone bridge from the 18th century. It was placed on top of the first one when it was believed to be no longer stable. In the 20th century, the bridge last bit was added to strengthen the entire construction.

The legend has it that the very original bridge was built after an old woman had lost her cow and saw it on the other side of the river. The devil appeared and agreed to build a bridge in return for the soul of the first one to cross it. He’d clearly forgotten about what happened at the Spanish aqueduct — the old woman tricked the devil when she threw a piece of bread across it and her dog crossed it to fetch it.

Pont Valentré, France

Pont Valentré has six Gothic arches and three square bridge towers — Shutterstock
Pont Valentré has six Gothic arches and three square bridge towers — Shutterstock
 

The 14th-century bridge consists of six Gothic arches and three square bridge towers. It has become the symbol of the town crossing the River Lot in Cahors in south-central France

In local folklore, the story is a humorous mixture of impatience, anger, and revenge. The builder was not happy with the slow pace at which they were constructing the bridge. Therefore he made a pact with the devil who promised to expedite the work in exchange for the builder’s soul. 

The builder was enjoying absolute power over the devil but as the contract was finishing, it was time to forfeit his soul as payment. The builder asked the devil to bring water for his workers… using a sieve, which proved impossible. 

 

The imp is sent every night to loosen a stone in the bridge's central tower — Shutterstock
The imp is sent every night to loosen a stone in the bridge’s central tower — Shutterstock

For trying to deceive him, the devil sent an imp to loosen a stone in the central tower every night so the bridge would never be finished. In 1879, the architect Paul Gott inserted a stone bearing into the central tower to confuse the devil who’d think the imp is in the midst of stealing a stone.

Ponte della Maddalena, Italy

The architect lured a dog onto the bridge with a piece of bread, deceiving the devil — Shutterstock
The architect lured a dog onto the bridge with a piece of bread, deceiving the devil — Shutterstock
 

This devil’s bridge with one large arch and three smaller ones in the province of Lucca (nearby Pisa and Florence) inspired many folktales and artists alike. It was probably commissioned by the Countess Matilda of Tuscany in the 11th century. Before a dam was built after WWII, the water level was lower, which would have made the structure perhaps even more impressive-looking.

As one of the stories goes, the architect Saint Julian was unable to finish the building so he asked the devil for help in return for a first soul which crosses the bridge. However, Saint Julian not only knew his bit about architecture, he was also familiar with old legends and so he lured a dog onto the bridge with a piece of bread, deceiving the devil.

Dyavolski most, Bulgaria

The bridge was constructed upon the remains of an ancient Roman bridge in the 16th century — Shutterstock
The bridge was constructed upon the remains of an ancient Roman bridge in the 16th century — Shutterstock
 

Dyavolski most lies over the Arda river in southern Bulgaria, not far from the Greek border. It was constructed between 1515–1518 upon the remains of an ancient Roman bridge on the road between the Aegean region and Northern Thracian valley (Gornotrakiyski Nizina). In 1984, it became a cultural monument.

There are two main legends connected to the bridge. One story goes that the builder’s wife passed away at the time of construction and her shadow has become part of the structure. Another story has it that the devil himself walked across the bridge and left a footprint on the stones.

Andermatt, Switzerland

Nowadays two bridges remain over the Ruess River — Shutterstock
Nowadays two bridges remain over the Ruess River — Shutterstock
 

Andermatt is a story of three bridges. Stretching across the Ruess River, the first documented bridge through the Schöllenen Gorge was built in 1230. This wooden bridge is now long gone but still forms part of the history of this particular devil’s bridge.

The locals built the second bridge after the first one was badly damaged during the Napoleonic Wars and in the 1950s, they built another sturdier one. Nowadays, both bridges still stand there.

The legend goes that back in the 13th century the villagers found it a difficult task to build a bridge over the river. That’s why they asked the devil who, of course, demanded the first crosser’s soul. The local people outsmarted the devil by sending in a goat first… evidently, the devil never learns from his mistakes.

The devil became upset and wanted to destroy the bridge with a large rock when an old lady with a cross stopped him. This 12-m-high devil’s stone can be seen near Göschenen in Switzerland.