The Devil’s Bridge, legends and paradoxes

The Devil’s Bridge in Borgo a Mozzano, in the province of Lucca, is a wonder of medieval engineering. It is also at the heart of a certain legend – a story that is often tied to bridges, in one variation or the other of the same essential plot: the foreman realizes construction work is lagging behind schedule, and asks the devil to help him finish everything in one night. The devil accepts, asking in payment the first soul that will cross the bridge. The man agrees, but then fools the demon by sending his way a dog (or a pig) – which in the end falls in the river, dies, and comes back as a ghost in the moonless nights, in search of the man who sacrificed him.

The bridge in Borgo a Mozzano is not the only bridge named after the devil. There are many others in Italy, especially in Romagna and in Tuscany. Perhaps, paradoxically, it is because of the etymology of the word ‘devil’ itself: it comes from the Greek verb ‘diábolos’, “he who divides”. Thus the name “Devil’s Bridge” is an oxymoron of sorts.

Legends and hypotheses aside, the Devil’s Bridge – also known as Bridge of Mary Magdalene because of an oratory that was probably in the area – is a beautiful structure that crosses the Serchio river with its asymmetrical arches. Built in the 14th century over a pre-existing bridge that is said was built by will of Matilda of Canossa, it was renovated by the famous Lucca-born ‘condottiero’ Castruccio Castracani.

The bridge is perfectly safe, of course. But you may want to avoid it in the dark, moonless nights.

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February 5, 2014

The Devil’s Bridge, legends and paradoxes

Borgo a Mozzano (Lu)