Devil’s Bridge – Rakotzbrücke


Deep inside Germany’s Kromlauer Park, visitors can see with their own eyes, an architectural construction that has left people speechless for decades.  The 157 year old arched bridge is known as the Rakotzbrücke, and it was specifically constructed over water to create a spectacular circular optical illusion.  The bridge’s design is parabolic; a near-perfect half circle, and was one of many similar bridges found in Europe.  This bridge was built over the river Rakotzsee where it’s own reflection finishes the illusion.

The bridge itself was commissioned by Knight Friedrich Herrmann Rötschke in 1860, making it one of the last ones built in Europe.  Very little information about Knight Rötschke is known other than being the local authority.  The bridge itself was clearly built with aesthetics in mind before functionality, as the trek across would be quite steep both up and down.  Visitors are allowed to approach the bridge from either side, however due to concerns about visitor safety and conservation of the historic landmark, no one is allowed to traverse the span currently.

We can ascertain that the bridge was constructed by hand using boulders and basalt.  Large boulders were built directly into the bridge arch and basalt was brought in from surrounding quarries to complete the project.  If you look closely at the picture to the left, you can see that on both ends of the Rakotzbrücke,  decorative thin rock spires were place to appear like natural rock outcroppings, reducing the angular look and adding character in the process.

Devil’s Bridges

The Rakotzbrücke is one of a group of ninety-one bridges scattered across Europe, collectively termed “Devil’s Bridges.” Each of the bridges that have received the Devil’s Bridge appellation is remarkable in some regard; most often for some technological hurdle surpassed in the building process.   Because these bridges represent an architectural achievement that was revolutionary at the time most people believed that it was an impossibility unless the Devil himself intervened, thus the term “Devil’s Bridge.”  Most of these were built between 1000 and 1600, a period in which anything and everything bad or strange was associated with Satanism.

Common Devil’s Bridge Legends

Most stories are similar.  The architect in charge was up against a deadline to complete the work; one which he would never be able to meet.  Rumor has it that he called on the Devil to help him finish the project in the final days.  The Devil appeared to him offering to finish the bridge, but only if the builder would deliver to him the first living being that crossed the completed bridge.  The man would always agree, and during the night the Devil would complete the bridge. Usually the story then shifts to how smart the builders were and how they would trick the Devil by driving a rooster or a goat across the bridge ahead of themselves, delivering it to the Devil waiting on the other side. Whereupon the Devil would resort to an angry rage and slaughter the poor animal before abruptly leaving.

If you are interested in specific bridge stories, check out the University of Pittsburgh (my alma mater) website or Wikipedia.


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