Pavia’s Covered Bridge and the Archangel’s wit
Like many other bridges, the Covered Bridge over the Ticino River in Pavia is said to have been built with the help of the devil – who offered his services in exchange for a mortal soul to take, only to be fooled in the end.
According to legend, on Christmas Eve in 999, a group of pilgrims wanted to attend the midnight mass that was about to start in the city. The old Roman viaduct had crumpled years earlier, and that night a thick fog kept the ferry from running. As the faithful waited to cross the river, to their utter amazement the fog formed a bridge. And the devil, appearing as a gentleman dressed in red, presented them his typical offer: “This bridge made of mist will turn into stone once it is crossed by a living being, whose soul will be mine forever”.
Then, the legend goes, the Archangel Michael made a timely and miraculous appearance, dressed as an anonymous passerby. He suggested first turning the bridge into stone, and then going on with the exchange.
And of course, since angelic wit always surpasses demoniac guile, the first living being to cross the bridge was a goat…
The Covered Bridge – or Old Bridge (‘Ponte Vecchio’) –inaugurated in 1951 replicates the 14th-century, medieval one that was damaged by bombs during the war in 1944.
It connects the outskirts of the city to the center. And can be crossed without any kind of pact with the devil.