Monday, February 11, 2013

My Trip to Devil's Bridge

During my trip to Caridgan this year I managed to make it to Devil's Bridge. The bridge is located in a small hamlet of the same name, about 20 minutes outside Aberystwyth. In addition to the original bridge which was built in the 10th century, there are two additional bridges on top of it - one built in the 18th century, the other in 1901. I've been wanting to visit the location since I was was really young, since I had read about it and been fascinated by the legend of how it came into existence.

Oldest version of the legend say that during a wild storm, which caused the river to swell to tremendous heights, the old wooden bridge across the gorge was swept away. An Old Woman who was watching over her herd of cows discovered that one was now trapped on another side. As she bemoaned the difficulty of getting it back without the bridge, The Devil appeared with a clap of thunder. He offered to build her a replacement bridge, though he warned her that in exchange for his work, he would be given the first soul to cross it. The Old Woman agreed, and after one night she returned to the spot to find a magnificent stone carved bridge. The Devil appeared again and reminded her of their bargain, at which point the Old Woman threw a loaf of bread across the bridge. Instead of her or her cow crossing the bridge first, a small dog ran across the bridge to collect the bread. Furious that his attempt to cast misfortune on the Old Woman, The Devil descended into the water and left the community at peace (and, I assume, the dog).

Disappointingly, since it sort of detracts from the romance of the tale, there are many of these bridges placed all over Europe. There are about 50 of these Gothic masonry arch bridges in France alone, with many others in Spain, Italy and Switzerland (and even others in the UK). Each of them, however, have a corresponding myth that links them to The Devil. Another myth encompasses all the bridges under a story that a master bridge builder and The Devil were adversaries, who competed with each other to build the bridges all over the world.

Whatever the case, the bridges were a significant technological advancement, and it's true that the masons who worked on these bridges deserved their legendary status after the difficulty of building such structures. Although many new bridges are more ingeniously designed and have a greater impact, these bridges, including the one at Devil's Bridge, were significant for bringing a charming aesthetic to areas and also undoubtedly aiding economic growth due to the accessibility it created among the treacherous and otherwise impossible to navigate terrain.

So about 10 years later I made it!