Monday, 18 July 2011

Through a local lens No. 9

Le Pont du Diable, the Devil's Bridge, Olargues

This bridge, according to a legend carefully fostered by the Office de Tourisme, took a very long time to finish because of an unusual phenomenon largely unknown to today's building trade.

As fast as the 12th century masons put this bridge up by day, the Devil came by night and threw the newly-laid masonry into the river below.

Tiring of constantly helping the builders to fish blocks of limestone out of the river, the villagers consulted the one amongst them who might have the readiest access to the Devil. So the village priest sought him out, and a pact was made whereby the Devil would allow completion of the bridge on condition that he could claim body and soul of the first living creature to cross the bridge when it was finished.

On the day the bridge was completed the villagers gathered at one end while the Devil, come to claim his due, stood at the other. The two parties advanced towards the middle, the Devil with arms outstretched to receive his sacrificial victim, while the villagers shuffled forward uneasily.

When they were but half-a-dozen ells apart, near enough for the villagers to be almost overcome by the stink of the antichristian mercaptan, the villagers' ranks suddenly opened, and a cat was hurled into the arms of the Devil.

The Devil, outwitted and snarling with disappointed rage, vanished in a miasma of putrid smoke. The bridge has been open to traffic ever since, but nowadays few feel the need carry a cat with them just in case. Given the number of strays about the village, you would have thought the Office de Tourisme could have hired them out to gullible or romantically minded tourists, or those in deep trouble, as laissez-pussers.

This photo, with the classic view of the village and the Devil's Bridge, was taken by my friend Jean-Claude Branville, a man of many talents and a distant cousin of St Theresa of Lisieux. The logo in the bottom right-hand corner is that of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, The Most Beautiful Villages of France, of which Olargues is one out of about 150, to some extent due to Jean-Claude's efforts.

This is the view of the bridge from the terrasse of one of our favourite restaurants, Fleurs d'Olargues. It's the Devil's own job to get comfortable in those chairs. Maybe....?

There's a line from one of Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales concealed in this post. If you spot it you're entitled to either a warm smile or a devilish grin. Please indicate your choice with your entry, as stocks are limited.

15 comments:

Vicus Scurra said...

If you or any of your neighbours are in need of felines to toss at Old Nick, there are always a few in my garden. You are very welcome to them.
I have often been accused of being fluent in Belloc's.

Dave said...

You are welcome to any of those that venture into my garden - those that make it out alive, anyway.

Dave said...

'The Devil, having nothing else to do Went off to tempt my Lady Poltagrue.'

These are the only words of Belloc that I can recall that have anything to do with the Devil. I expect he also wrote a treatise on bridge-building, or restaurant seating.

Christopher said...

Vicus: Thanks. J-C Branville, St Theresa of Lisieux and I will be round with cages. Bob a nob?

Dave (1): See above.

Dave (2): ...and it goes on

My lady, acting on a sudden whim,
To his extreme annoyance, tempted him.

Or something like that. Poltagrue would make a good name for a cat.

Rog said...

It looks perfectly lovely. Almost nicer than Devil's Bridge near Aberystwyth.

Friko said...

I'll have you know that this sort of thing happens to this day in my own village of Valley's End, in deepest, rural South Shropshire.

Not a month goes by without a smoke belching devil hurling parts of the packhorse bridge into the river Clun; the modern day devil comes in the guise of large motorised vehicles, also stinking of putrid smoke, aka petrol fumes. The devil promptly disappears, pursued by furious villagers, who get to the scene too late to make a note of the number on the cloven hoof.


Yes, I can see that you would feel comfortable in a blog fuelled by the otherwise pure air and pristine hills that surround the blog owner. She has now added her name to your followers and expects nothing less from you, particularly, if you wish to take up residence in her coal shed, where bed and breakfast may be obtained at no little expense.

moreidlethoughts said...

And I was sure the "laissez-pussers" was heav'n-sent for modification by Rog into something about Lassie and puss.
Lovely views, whether smiling or grinning.

(I've updated my post with a link for the bird)

Sarah said...

Not sure....but I'll have a devilish smile if there is one going spare

Christopher said...

Rog: To complete the picture I have this image in my mind of you and Mrs Rine being drawn upriver under the bridge in a graceful barge pulled by seven swans, with O and L like heraldic supporters in the arches sejant regardant barkant and Dave standing above the keystone (where there is an iron cross, incidentally) scattering dahlia petals over you from his lapis lazuli chasuble.

Friko: Yes, how very apt. Thank you. And thank you too for your kind offer of accommodation, but as I am clean in word, thought and deed I wonder if you perhaps you have a modest little suite on the piano nobile rather than a coal shed?

MIT: I know. You line Rog up and he doesn't appear. Then when you least expect it he turns up like Macavity, or Lohengrin in some fantastic boat. Definitely a man of mystery.

Sah: Mephistophelian girn on its way to you.

Rog said...

Are there any hallucinogens concealed in that Fez Christopher?

Christopher said...

If ever you feel like borrowing my fez for a good halluce, Rog, just say the word.

Z said...

I understand that Dave is still trying to sign the Devil up for the cricket club. His dexterity in the field is uncanny, he catches the ball even when he isn't trying to.

Christopher said...

Exactly, Z. I always supposed BMCC stood for Beelzebub-Mephistopheles Cricket Club.

Z said...

At the after-match celebrations, most of us are flown (or flowin'?) with insolence and wine.

Christopher said...

Thank you, Z - you've completed the circle very neatly:

...Dives, when you and I go down to Hell...
...Charon, a man of exquisite address...

Will, since you are a lord, observe, 'My Lord
We cannot take those weighty things aboard!'
Then down they go, my wretched Dives, down -
The fifteen sorts of boots you kept for town;
The hat to meet the Devil in; the plain
But costly ties; the cases of champagne;
The solid watch, and seal, and chain, and charm;
The model of a Burning Farm
(To give the little Belials)


etc., etc. Hilaire Belloc, To Dives