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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. Each of the Devil's Bridges has a corresponding Devil-related myth or folktale.
Local lore often wrongly attributes these bridges to the Roman era, but in fact many of them are medieval, having been built between 1000 and 1600 AD. In medieval times some Roman roads were themselves considered beyond human capabilities and needs, and therefore had to have been built by the devil.
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). Some of the 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.
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 leaping with rage on being tricked out of his prize.
Each of the bridges that have received the Devil's Bridge appellation is remarkable in some regard; most often for the technological hurdles surpassed in building the bridge, but on occasion also for its aesthetic grace, or for its economic or strategic importance to the community it serves.
Devil's Bridges (incomplete list)
There are 49 Devil's Bridges in France, including:
- Pont du Diable – Aniane (Gorges de l'Hérault, Languedoc-Roussillon)
- Pont du Diable – Villemagne-l'Argentière (Hérault, Languedoc-Roussillon)
- Pont du Diable – Beaugency
- Pont du Diable – Céret
- Pont du Diable – Foix
- Pont du Diable – Olargues
- Pont du Diable – Valentré
- Pont du Diable – Crouzet Migette
- Ponte del Diavolo – Ascoli Piceno, Marche
- Ponte del Diavolo – Blera, Lazio
- Ponte del Diavolo (officially Ponte Vecchio, also Ponte Gobbo) – Bobbio, Emilia Romagna
- Ponte del Diavolo (or Ponte della Maddalena) – Borgo a Mozzano, Tuscany
- Ponte del Diavolo – Cavallara (a frazione of Gualdo Cattaneo, Umbria)
- Ponte del Diavolo – Cividale, Friuli
- Ponte del Diavolo – Civita, Calabria
- Ponte del Diavolo (Ponte Vecchio) – Dronero, Province of Cuneo, Piedmont
- Ponte del Diavolo – Lanzo Torinese, Piedmont
- Ponticello del Diavolo (‘the Devil's little bridge’) – Torcello, Veneto
- Puente del Diablo – Cueto, Spain
- Pont del Diable – Martorell, Spain
- Pont del Diable – Tarragona, Spain
- Devil's Bridge – Devil's Bridge (Pontarfynach), Ceredigion, Wales
- Devil's Bridge – Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria
- Devil's Bridge – Horace Farm, Pennington Parish, Cumbria
- Devil's Bridge – Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset (1841 bridge over railway)
- Devils Bridge – in the grounds of Weston Park, Staffordshire (18th-century listed bridge in form of grotto)
- Devil's Bridge – Pontwalby, Glynneath, Wales
- Devil's Bridge – Mossley Hill, Liverpool
- Devil's Bridge – Worms Head, Rhossili, Pembrokeshire, Wales
- Devil's Bridge, Antigua, Caribbean
- Ponte do Diabo – Vila Nova, Portugal
- Ponte da Mizarela – Vieira do Minho, Portugal
- Pont du Diable – Gorges de l'Areuse, Switzerland
- Teufelsbrücke – St. Gotthard Pass, Switzerland
- Teufelsbrücke – Commune of Egg, Switzerland
- Steinerne Brücke – Regensburg, Germany
- Puente del Común – Bogotá-Chia, Colombia
- Puente del Diablo (or Punta del Diablo) – Binangonan, Philippines
- Puente Los Esclavos – Santa Rosa, Guatemala
- Dyavolski most (Дяволски мост) – near Ardino, Bulgaria
- Hudičev most – Bohinj, Slovenia
- Hudičev most – Tolmin, Slovenia
- Duivelsbrug – Breda, Netherlands
- Moara Dracului – Câmpulung Moldovenesc, Romania
- Kuradisild – Tartu, Estonia
- Chertov Most – bypass route around the Severomuysky Tunnel, Buryatia, Russia.
- D. L. Ashliman, "The Devil's Bridge: folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 1191"
- See the article Die Teufelsbrücke (German) on the German language Wikipedia.
- Graham Robb, The Discovery of France, p131, Picador (2007), ISBN 978-0-330-42761-6
- "Devil's Bridge". Ceredigion Tourism. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- "Devil's Bridge, Kirby Lonsdale". Engineering Timelines.
- "Devils Bridge, Pennington". British listed buildings. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- "The Devils Bridge, Weston Super Mare". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- "The Devils Bridge Weston Park, Weston Underwood". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 2011-01-16.