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Alright, today, we’re taking you on a journey to the south of France. With over a thousand years of history, the Devil’s Bridge is one of the oldest standing medieval bridges in the country. This monument, located in the Hérault department, is filled with legends and anecdotes, attracting thousands of visitors every year. It’s a truly unique place which has been classified as a Historical Monument and a World Heritage Site. So, what is the Devil’s Bridge and how can one visit it? Let’s explore that together.
😍 Further to the west. This part of France doesn’t lack unique scenery. Have you heard of Cordes-sur-Ciel? It is also west of Montpellier, northeast of Toulouse, and is definitely worth a detour. Here’s what you should do there.
What is the story of the Devil’s Bridge?
Constructed in 873 during the reign of Charles II the Bald, the Devil’s Bridge was intended to facilitate the passage of pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela. The abbot of Gellone, William, supervised the construction of this remarkable Romanesque edifice, making the bridge a true masterpiece of Middle Ages architecture.
Its name, the Devil’s Bridge, although grim, is commonly attributed to structures displaying a particular technical prowess that, according to folklore, would have required the devil’s assistance. It is not the only construction in the region to bear this label. The Devil’s Bridge of Olargues, located on the Jaur river in Hérault, is a narrow and distinct 12th-century footbridge that provides access to the heart of this village classified among the “most beautiful villages of France”. This structure has been protected since 1916.
Another Devil’s Bridge, this time on the Mare river, has existed in Villemagne l’Argentière since the end of the 18th century. This one is known for its steep incline.
The most well-known legend surrounding our bridge tells that the devil helped build the bridge in one night, in exchange for the soul of the first to cross it. However, the villagers managed to trick the devil by sending a cat across the bridge first, forcing the devil to disappear into the Hérault river below. To learn more about this legend, visit the Tourist Office website.
A few figures about the Devil’s Bridge?
Certainly! The Devil’s Bridge displays impressive dimensions, testifying to the skill of the builders of the time. The structure is nearly 50 meters long and 5.5 meters wide, spacious enough to allow the passage of pilgrims, merchants, and villagers.
The most spectacular feature of the bridge is undoubtedly its single arch. With a span of nearly 30 meters and a height of 22 meters above the river, it gives the Devil’s Bridge its distinctive appearance and unique charm. This daring construction for its time has enabled the bridge to withstand the river’s floods for more than a millennium, attesting to the ingenuity of medieval builders.
How to see the Devil’s Bridge?
The Devil’s Bridge is located near the picturesque village of Saint-Jean-de-Fos, northwest of Montpellier. You can reach it by car, following the D4 towards Aniane and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. Parking is available near the site. The site is also accessible on foot from Aniane for those who prefer a pleasant walk in nature.
Do note that shuttles, running two separate routes, allow you to reach the Devil’s Bridge, from Aniane. Depending on the time of year, they depart every 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day – with extended hours during the summer. Also remember that the shuttle departure parking lots are free, except when they are in operation (which is not outrageous).
Access to the bridge is free and it is open all year round. However, a visit during the summer offers more pleasant weather conditions. Do keep in mind that swimming in the river is possible, but requires caution due to potentially strong currents. Activities such as canyoning, rafting, and climbing are offered around the site, don’t hesitate to find out more.
Nearby, don’t miss the village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, classified among the most beautiful villages of France, and the Clamouse Cave, known for its magnificent stalactite.