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Devil’s bridge

Original version
The devil’s bridge is a bridge over the Arda river, municipality of Ardino, district Kardzhali. According to the legend, the creator of the bridge is craftsman Dimitar from the nearby village of Nedelino. He undertook the challenge to build a bridge over the wild river even if all that attempted this before him failed. He did a magnificent job and extremely fast as well, but died soon after he was done. The legends says that it was Satan who told the craftsman that if he managed to build the bridge within 40 days and include the Devil’s image around the bridge, but in a way that it is both visible and invisible as well as palpable and untouchable, Satan would grant the construction with endless durability. If the master failed to do the job within 40 days though, and with the special requirement about Satan’s image, Satan was going to take his soul and the soul of his wife. Dimitar succeeded and Satan kept his promise, making the bridge endlessly durable, but the master died soon after that anyway and took Satan’s secret to his grave. People say that if you look towards the bridge and river Arda’s waters from one of the river banks between 11 and 12 am when the bridge and its reflection create a perfect mirror image, in the cut rock underneath the bridge, you will be able to see Satan’s face. According to some, on one of the stones in the river you can see Satan’s footprint.
Alternative versions
Another story tells us about three brothers, who were excellent builders, excellent craftsmen. News about their skills reached the Sultan who told them that if they manage to build a bridge over the river Arda he would grant them great gifts and fortune, but if they fail – he would kill them and their entire families. The craftsmen had no choice. They found a spot and started working. It was spring though, the river was wild and everything they build during the day, it took away in the evening, bringing the bridge down. The three craftsmen felt that the place was cursed and that they will never succeed. They went to consult with a wise man from their village, but were not prepared for what he had to tell them. The wise man told them that the bridge needs a sacrifice in order to be finished. It needed a human soul (in the form of a human shadow built in) to fortify the bridge and calm down the river. The brothers decided to build in the soul (shadow) of the wife who is the first to come and bring them lunch on the next day. They agreed that they would tell their wives nothing. The oldest brother however told everything to his wife as soon as he got home. The second brother told his wife not to come to the construction site no matter what. Only the youngest brother told his wife nothing. He trusted that his brothers, who raised him after their father’s death, would do the same. He just told his wife to do all her work at home, to take care of the animals and the child and not to hurry to go to the construction site. So the brothers went to work and waited to see whose wife would be the first to come with food. The youngest brother’s wife – Struna - did all the house work and started on her way to bring food to the men. When he saw her, her husband froze. His heart started beating rapidly. He couldn’t cry. He told her that on that day she would be sacrificed for his little baby son, for his treacherous brothers and their wives. Struna did not utter a word because she could not imagine that her husband and child would suffer. She kissed her husband and she went to the bridge. The brother chased his brothers away. He started building his wife’s shadow alone. With every stone a part of him was dying. Struna asked her husband to build a water fountain nearby so that she can feed her child through there. She returned home with her husband. She breastfed her baby one last time, but then fell sick and slowly withered away, dying in front of her husband’s eyes. The brothers continued to build the bridge without looking into each other’s eyes. The bridge was remarkable, but everyone knows that it divided the three brothers. What happened to that fountain the legend does not say, but witnesses confirm that when it rains, milk starts running down the bridge walls and its joints become white.
Main characters
A craftsman builder, Satan. Three craftsmen, a wise man consulting them on what the construction requires, the youngest brother’s wife – Struna.
Connected artistic / architectonic / historical heritage
- The bridge is situated in a picturesque gorge about 10 km north-west from the city of Ardino, near to the villages of Dyadovtsi and Latinka. - The Devil’s bridge is the monument - Masterpieces (e.g. paintings, statues etc.) – the bridge is a masterpiece The bridge dates back to the beginning of the 16th century, but its original appearance was built much earlier, during the time of the Roman Empire. In the years of its peak, the mighty empire developed and built an impressive transport network, including many roads and bridges built over the lush mountain rivers. The Roman Bridge (later called Devil's) is part of this road network. Over the years, the bridge was destroyed, but Sultan Selim I ordered him to be restored. This happened at the beginning of the 16th century. The remnants of the old Roman Bridge were embedded in a new construction - so durable and durable that even today, after five centuries, we can admire its perfection. The bridge consists of three arches and four openings between them, which are made in the vaults of its lateral ribs. From the Roman bridge are preserved the low stone handrails on both sides. The bridge has a length of 56 meters and a width of 3.5 meters. The height of the highest, central vault is 11.5 meters, and the side vaults - 7.5 meters. The steps of the vaults are 1.80 x 3.5 meters.
Local traditions or historical connections
According to ancient construction legends around Bulgarian lands, in order for a structure to be strong and endurable, it requires the shadow of a human to be built in it. This fortification though always comes at a very high price – the life of the person whose shadow is built within the construction. The legend of the young woman, who was built in the foundations of a bridge or a building, in order for the God to show mercy and not to destroy the construction is common to all the lands in which the Bulgarians once lived. It can be heard in all parts of the empire of Simeon, to Transylvania and Hungary
Didactical Relevance
The legend can be used with students on the one hand to study the local architectural heritage, traditions and culture but on the other also the craft and architectural traditions in building, since the bridge is a masterpiece of the architectural knowledge and skills from the old times. The legend is about craftsmanship, love, honesty and how everything comes with a price and that every action has consequences. Students can discuss these topics in a literature or philosophy class.
Didactical Activity
Teachers and students can visit the place, study the characteristics of the local culture and history and to find common roots in the BG legend and other similar legends from the other EU countries. Students can discuss on the topics comparing views from old and new times, comparing views from different countries on them. As a didactic activity teachers may also arrange a drama class in which student can play different roles and their fellow students to evaluate how each students represented the character in the legend - was it genuine and true to what the local legend told.


The Devil's Bridge and the Devil's Canyon


Devil’s bridge_where is it
The picture shows where the Devil's bridge is situated in Bulgaria.

PDF version of the legend in national language