The medieval Pont du Diable
The Pont du Diable – Devil’s Bridge is a footbridge that spans the river Ance.
It was built in the 10th century to connect the castle of Chalencon to the town of Retournac and the Rhône Valley.
This 50m long arched bridge boasts an exceptional location, nestled at the bottom of a valley that can only be reached on foot.
Classified as a historical monument, it is a perfect illustration of medieval architecture.
A central pier with mid-level nosebays supports its two arches and large uneven granite slabs pave the narrow 2m wide passage way.
Why did the villagers named their bridge the Devil’s Bridge?
As you can guess, its name originated from a local legend that arose during its construction, more than 10 centuries ago.
The uneven terrain and recurrent floods of the Ance prevented the lord of Charencon’s workers from building the bridge.
Their failed attempts eventually caught the attention of the devil who hastened to help build the bridge.
However, as we know Satan is quite devious… he thus proposed a pact to the Lord of Chalencon; he’ll help build the bridge in exchange for the soul of the first person who will cross it once completed.
When that day arrived, the Lord of Chalencon sacrificed himself to protect his subjects. However, as he stepped towards Satan, a dog sprang up and crossed the bridge before him.
Barony of Chalencon
The story of the Pont du Diable is linked to the construction of the castle and its village, which became the seat of the Barony of Chalencon.
In fact the lords of Chalencon built two bridges, the Devil’s Bridge, and the single arch bridge Pont Bounery, upstream, which led to the road of Tiranges.
Chalencon had the only local crossings over the tumultuous river Ance.
The lords of Chalencon eventually became one of the most influential families of Velay and married into the powerful Family of Polignac in the 14th century.
Castle of Chalencon
Sadly, they deserted their castle, which slowly fell into ruins.
All that is left of it is the round keep and two turrets (restored in the 19th and 20th century) that overlook the village.
The seigniorial chapel became a parish church in the 18th century.
It boasts an amazing boxed-ceiling created in the 17th century to replace the primitive vault; subdivided into a myriad of small white boxes, it is adorned with designs of jewels and monograms.
The chapel and the castle are both classified as Historical Monuments and are open to the public. A nice detour in Velay!
N.B. It seems that the devil likes bridges! This devious old thing also tried to trick the architect who designed the Pont Valentré in Cahors.
Department of Haute-Loire – Saint-André-de-Chalencon – Auvergne region
Coordinates: Lat 45.283271 – Long 3.984591