Haunted History: The History of Devil's Bridges
Updated: Feb 28
Recently my mom sent me some beautiful images of the Rakotzbrücke Bridge in Gablenz, Germany. Which of course sent me down a rabbit hole of Devil’s Bridges. Devil’s Bridge is a term that describes many historic bridges across Europe. It’s fascinating that so many bridges exist, which have been built at different times but share some very key qualities. And most of these bridges are quite literally ancient. The first is that most of these bridges are technological or architectural achievements, or trend setters if you will. The builders used new methods to create them. The second is that these bridges have been associated with the devil or some sort of dark folklore by locals over the years. There is an obvious link between these two criteria. Because the construction of these bridges was mind-blowing, people speculated that only the devil himself could have actually built them. Or that the architect had made a pact with the devil. Of course, it doesn’t help that these bridges are often precarious or dangerous looking.
According to Wikipedia, there is actually a special categorization for Devil’s Bridge folktales, because of how many there are. In the Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index (which we talk about in our Fairy Tale series) these stories are labeled under Number 1191.
There are over 49 Devil’s Bridges in France alone. Other examples can be found in Germany, Italy, Russia, Romania, Wales and across the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Bulgaria. Only to name a few.
Back to the bridge that started us off, the Rakotzbrücke Bridge in Germany was built specifically to cast a dramatic and symmetrical reflection on the water beneath. A photographer’s dream. It underwent some maintenance construction in order to preserve the structure in 2019, but seems to be open again to the public as of 2021. Of course, crossing the bridge is not allowed.
Another stunning example is the Devil’s Bridge of Ardino, Bulgaria. This bridge was built between 1515 and 1518 and spans the Arda River. It was actually built on top of a collapsed Roman bridge. This bridge has a haunted history and lore that is still believed to this day by locals. Some believe that the devil’s footprint was captured in the structure, others believe that the architect’s wife died during the construction of the bridge and that her shadow or soul is somehow trapped inside. Locals are hesitant to cross at night because of the dark history associated with it. The Devil’s Bridge of Ardino is similar visually to the Ponte della Maddalena in Italy and the Pont Valentre in France.
But there is a special place in my heart for the Devil's Bridge on Spooky Lane, for obvious reasons. This version of a Devil’s Bridge is in the Hertfordshire Countryside in England. This bridge is dripping with haunted tales. The bridge was built over a sunken Roman road, and the walls of the road are now ivy and fog filled. Leaving a very surreal impression on those who visit. Some of the claims include sightings of ancient monks and an active witchcraft community (think Satanic Panic not Wiccan).
There are too many legends surrounding these beautiful bridges to give you a thorough idea without writing a book on them. But I hope you look into them and see if any spark your interest. I think it’s fascinating that so many similar structures have inspired almost exact folklore across continents.