The Devil's Bridge
BORGO A MOZZANO | THE DEVIL’S BRIDGE
Ponte della Maddalena - Devil’s Bridge
The Devil’s Bridge is a masterpiece of Medieval engineering. Its grandiose presence overlooking the Serchio river brings back memories of reveries, myths and legends. Probably the bridge was built on countess Matilde di Canossa’s own will to allow pilgrims and wayfarers to reach Lucca and then Rome through the Via Francigena. In Medieval times Serchio Valley and Garfagnana represented a cardinal crossing point for the freight, people and ideas movement.
In XIII century the bridge was restored by Castruccio Castracani and in 1500 was named “Ponte della Maddalena” because of an oratory consecrated to the saint and located on the left bank of the river. A sculpture of Maddalena, an exquisite piece credited to Della Robbia, is found in San Jacopo church in Borgo a Mozzano.
In early ‘900 the architecture of the bridge was modified noticeably to make room for the railway and a new arch was opened on the right section. During the Second World War the Devil Bridge was mined by Nazis, by the time resigned to leave the Linea Gotica fortification present locally. But luckily its destruction was warded off. We don’t know actually the reason for this German Head choice; like enough they considered the bridge deficient in halftrack passage and spared it.
The Devil Bridge looks a typically medieval humpback bridge featuring asymmetric arches and, as an unique exemplar, the central one is so high and wide that it seems a challenge to gravity. The bridge is walkable, its length is 93,10 mt and the main arch height is 18,50 mt.
The legend. The origin of its ominous name is uncertain. The most popular legend about it refers to its building, committed to S. Giuliano l'Ospitaliere. The setup was difficult since its beginning. When the master builder realized he would not fulfil the terms of time limit, lost hope in despair. In the evening, while he was sitting on his own on the riverbank, feeling ashamed for not fulfilling his task in time, the Devil appeared to him offering to enter into a covenant.
The Evil One would have built the bridge in just one night, but he would have taken the soul away from the first one that had crossed over on the bridge. They entered into a pact and that night the Devil lifted the huge bridge span with his pitchfork. The contractor, full of regret, confessed the truth to a priest who advised him to abide by the agreement but at the same time to have the good sense of letting a pig be the first to cross over the bridge.
The following day the master builder forbade people to pass through and let the pig proceed first. Then the Devil, scorned and enraged, threw himself off the bridge into Serchio river and no one have seen him around anymore.