All across Europe, you will find arch bridges made from stone or masonry in the Middle Ages that seem to defy standard engineering logic. Some were built in precarious places. Others have high arches or unusual design features.

Today, we look at these ancient bridges and marvel at the engineering abilities of the structures’ architects and builders. But in the medieval era, such extraordinary feats of engineering could only mean one thing … the devil was involved in their creation. Let’s look at some of the best-known examples of medieval Europe’s “devil’s bridges.”

The Devil’s Bridge-Building Program

The devil must have dabbled in civil engineering in the Middle Ages because there are so-called devil’s bridges all over Europe. In nearly all of the locations, there are local legends or folklore that associate the devil with the bridge.

Source: Wikimedia/MathieuMD

In some of these tales, the bridge is one hundred percent the handiwork of the devil. Some claim that the devil single-handedly built the bridge, usually overnight. But in other stories, the devil works through the engineer of the bridge, whispering secret knowledge in his ear to help him succeed in his engineering project. But the devil demands a steep price.

Making Deals with the Devil

According to local folklore, the devil demands a steep price for his bridge-building assistance. Most of the legends about devil’s bridges include a cautionary tale about a builder or engineer who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for help with constructing the bridge. In other stories, the devil demands the soul of the first person to cross the bridge.

Source: Wikimedia/Emiliana Borruto

Often, these stories have a surprise twist and a happy ending … the devil is outwitted! There is a tale in which the builder agrees to let the devil take his soul when the bridge is completed. But the builder leaves one stone missing, so the bridge is never finished. In another instance, the legend states that a dog was sent across a bridge first, so the devil has to settle for a canine soul rather than a human one.

Beware the Devil’s Footprint

This 185-foot-long stone bridge, Dyavolski most, spans the Ardo River in Adrino, Bulgaria. The work on this bridge, which replaces a Roman-era wooden bridge, was completed in 1518. Even before the work was complete, the locals believed that the devil was involved with the creation of this arched, humpback bridge.

Source: Wikimedia/Vassia Atanassova – Spiritia

The series of semi-circle arches, including the gravity-defying middle one, were designed in this manner to mark the water levels of the river. As the story goes, the devil himself often used the bridge and he even left a footprint on one of the stones. The devil’s footprint, however, can only be seen at night.

France’s Incomplete Pont Valentre Bridge

The 14th century, six-span stone Pont Valentre Bridge in Cahors, France, is not only unfinished, but it needs to be repaired each day … at least, according to the local folklore. The construction project was, as the legend goes, hopelessly behind schedule, so the foreman seeks the devil’s help in exchange for his soul. But during the final stage of the project, the foreman sent the devil to collect water for mixing the mortar. He gives him a sieve instead of a bucket so the devil cannot complete the bridge.

Source: Unsplash/le Sixieme Reve

Angered at being tricked, the devil sends a demon to the center tower each night to loosen the final stone. The stone needs to be repaired every morning. In 1879, the Pont Valentre Bridge underwent restoration. At that time, the architect of the project added a carving of an imp on the loosened stone. Now, the legend tells us, when the demons arrive to loosen the stone, they assume one of their colleagues is already working on it.

Three Devil’s Bridges Are Better Than One

The unique and mind-boggling devil’s bridge in Ceredigion, Wales, is really three bridges in one, all stacked together. The bridges cross a steep gorge. The challenging and dangerous location meant that humans couldn’t build the bridges. Only the devil could do it.

Source: Wikimedia/Llywelyn2000, /Shutterstock

The lower bridge is the original bridge spanning the gorge and was built in 1075. Work began on the middle bridge in 1753 and the upper bridge was built in 1902.

The Devil Got Less than What He Bargained For

The 817-feet-long Les Ferreres Aqueduct is located in what is now Tarragona, in Spain’s Catalonia region. An impressive engineering marvel, the aqueduct has 25 upper arches and 11 lower ones. The legend of this devil’s bridge begins with an elderly couple who cross an old wooden bridge with their donkey every day on their way to market. But then a storm destroys the bridge.

Source: Wikimedia/Joanlm

The distressed couple is approached by the devil who offers to build a new bridge for them. The payment, according to legend, would be the first soul to cross the finished bridge. To the couple’s surprise, the large stone bridge was erected overnight. The devil waited to see which of the couple would cross the bridge first. The quick-thinking old lady slapped the rump of the donkey, and the animal ran across the bridge. The furious devil had to settle for a donkey soul.

The Devil Was Deceived with a Piece of Bread

Countess Matilda of Tuscany commissioned the construction of the Ponte della Maddalena Bridge in Italy’s Lucca province in the 11th century. The asymmetrical design of this bridge – with one large arch and three smaller ones – makes it unique and eye-catching. Local legend tells us that Saint Julian, the architect, was in way over his head with this engineering challenge.

Source: Tripadvisor

In desperation, Saint Julian made a pact with the devil. All the devil asked in return for his help was the first soul to cross the bridge. Saint Julian tricked the devil by throwing a piece of bread onto the other side of the bridge and a stray dog ran after it.

The Devil Was Thwarted by an Old Lady with a Cross

Teufelsbrucke Bridge crossed the Reuss River at the steep and forbidding Schollen Gorge in Switzerland. The fast-moving water made the bridge construction here a potentially deadly endeavor, so the locals called on the devil to build the bridge. As per usual, the devil agreed to do the work and demanded the first soul to cross the Teufelsbrucke Bridge as his payment.

Source: Rove

When the townspeople sent a goat across the bridge first, the devil was so furious that he vowed to destroy the newly completed bridge. The devil prepared to heave a large boulder onto the bridge when a wise old woman stepped forward. She brandished a cross which sent the devil running. The boulder he dropped can still be seen near the bridge.

The Devil’s Bridge with a Perfect Circle

Tucked away in a picturesque park in Saxony, Germany, is the Rakotzbrucke Bridge. If you stand in the right spot, the high, curved arch of the bridge and its reflection in the water below form a perfect circle.

Source: Wikimedia/A.Landgraf

A classic example of a devil’s bridge, the Rakotzbrucke Bridge has become a popular place for photographers and Instagram influencers. More fairytale than sinister, the Rakotzbrucke Bridge was built in 1860 by human builders and engineers who swore they were not under the spell of the devil.