Legend of the Devil’s Bridge 1321 – 1341
Many bridges built in the medieval Europe were named “the Devil’s Bridge” as they were incredible feats of architecture, made by hand with skills considered beyond human capabilities. Le Pont du Diable in Céret, a 14th-century bridge with a 46-metre span, which was at the time of its construction was the world’s largest bridge arch, has its legend.
In the fourteenth century, the banks of the River Tech were joined by a wooden bridge that was regularly washed away by major floods and storms in this unpredictable coastal river.
The people of Céret decided to build a concrete bridge out of stone, but the engineers contended that the banks were too steep, and no-one would take on the contract.
One of the engineers, attracted by the large sum of money proposed by the Cérétans, finally agreed to carry out the job. Unfortunately, his first attempt was destroyed by a storm, the river broke its banks and took the bridge away, so the people of Céret were obliged to pay another 5000 ducats for him to start again.
The second time, just as the construction was close to completion, large clouds down in the valley heralded a violent storm, the fast cold wind rushed down the plain, the river swelled into a torrent, the scaffolding gave way, and the bridge was swept downstream. The angry Cérétans gave him a deadline, after which he would be hanged for taking the money and not completing the bridge.
So he set to work. The night before the final time limit, dark clouds and a cold and violent wind heralded the approach of a severe storm that carried the bridge away once again! The great engineer fled to the mountains. On the trail of a high rocky pass, he met a stranger who promised him that he could save his life and rebuild the bridge in time for the deadline.
“And how is that possible?” asked our great engineer
“Never mind that” replied the stranger. “Just leave it to me. This evening, at midnight, the bridge will be standing again. The condition? All I ask is that you give me the first living being to cross the bridge.”
The engineer shivered and asked himself “How was it possible to rebuild the bridge in a few hours?” Something wasn’t quite right. Surely only the devil was capable of this? However, he agreed as he evidently did not wish to hang.
Immediately, a strong smell of sulfur wafted through the air, and the mysterious stranger disappeared, for this was the Devil himself.
Realising the gravity of his act, the engineer returned home under cover of darkness and began to reflect on his agreement. What was he to do?
At the eleventh hour, while all lay in the silence of the night, he left home and went to the River Tech, carrying on his back a canvas bag. True to his word, the Devil worked diligently to rebuild the bridge, piling materials with the skill of a master mason. Our engineer saw him and snuggled behind a rock on the shore. Eleven and a half hours! The vault of the bridge now loomed in the pale rays of the moon, which had climbed the crest of the Albère.
Midnight strikes! Just as the Devil was about to place the last stone, our engineer, who had been at the end of the bridge, opens the bag and let’s loose a black cat, which runs across the bridge as the Devil is laying the last stone, the keystone.
Surprised, the Devil dropped the final stone to get his hands on this first soul. “Deceived, betrayed,” cried he, and followed the cat as far as Le Boulou to claim its soul.
And so the Devil disappeared, leaving the bridge unfinished, which it has remained since, as no one has been able to replace that one last stone.