Il Ponte della Maddalena: The Devil’s Bridge


This bridge is known by three names; the first being Ponte di Matilde di Canossa as it was named after the great Countess Matilde. Secondly it’s known as Ponte della Maddalena. Thirdly, and most importantly, it’s known as il Ponte del Diavolo*.

We’re in the hills around Lucca, a setting where many fairytales and stories are set, but above all, where Satan is felt more than anything else. The bridge was made by a poor builder, and due to some unforeseen circumstance, the bridge fell apart. The builder was in despair because it had to be finished the next day for the local authorities and he knew that it was impossible to get this massive project finished in time. However, all of sudden, to his delight, he was offered a lifeline! A huge creature appeared with hoof like feet and black skin, who revealed himself to be the Devil. He pledged to get the bridge finished in time for the builder’s deadline, but for doing this, the Devil wanted the spirit of the first person to cross the bridge. The builder was so desperate to save his own skin, he agreed to this outrageous deal.

The following morning, as promised the bridge was completely finished, in all it’s magnificent detail and glory. The builder, overcome with emotion, threw himself to the feet of the Bishop of Lucca and confessed everything. The Bishop then made a pig cross the bridge before anyone else could and it trottered accross. The Devil then came to collect his fee, and was absolutely furious to discover that he had been conned. He was so angry that he created a huge hole below the bridge, in the hope that if the bridge broke, people would become trapped in the hole.

This isn’t the only Devil Bridge in Italy, it is said, that Satan also worked hard to manipulate many bridges in the North of Italy too. But who knows? It is quite weird that after nearly a thousand years, the bridge has had no need for any restoration works at all, especially since the water which it crosses is known for being quite violent, and often floods the riverbanks.

The answer to this is its actual construction, it is a brilliantly made bridge, and without going into the technicalities, is an extremely strong bridge. The legend says though, that the Devil is still waiting for his payment, and if someone stays on the bridge too long, say, to admire the water flow, the water will come up, and wash them away, finally giving the Devil his payment of one human soul.

*il Ponte del Diavolo means the Devil’s Bridge.


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