The Roman Bridge

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The Roman bridge of Pont Saint Martin, whose construction dates back to 25 BC, used to offer the only path over the wild Lys stream for centuries. Thanks to its considerable height (66.4 ft), it did not suffer any damage during the frequent floods in the surrounding area. It was also unscathed by the 1944 aerial bombardment.

This imposing structure has a single round arch; it was made with well-squared blocks of gneiss and mica schists found on the spot, resting on the rock. The wall mass is lightened by some parts made of smaller stones, delimited by frames that enliven the sober facade.
The intrados of the arch has five parallel rings in square ashlars with four intermediate grooves, filled with an amalgam of mortar and crushed earthenware.
In the upper part, the ashlars are linked together with peculiar iron clips: according to the legend, those devices are actually the traces of Satan’s passage.

The legend of the bridge

It is said that Saint Martin, the bishop of Tours, happened to pass through Valle d’Aosta on his way to Rome. Due to bad weather, he was forced to spend the night in the village near the Lys stream, but the only existing walkway to that settlement had been dragged away by the wild waters. It was the saint who had the great idea of proposing to Satan the construction of a new bridge, which was built in a single night and in exchange for the first soul who would use it.
At dawn, Saint Martin, together with the whole population, headed for the new bridge: a beautiful, large and, above all, solid and practical structure. At some point, the saint threw a hungry mutt, resting on the other end of the bridge, a loaf of bread. A lurking Satan immediately snatched the poor creature, but when he realized it was not a man, he burst into a terrible rage and disappeared forever in the Lys among clouds of smoke and sulphur.

The carnival and the chariot race

Every year, a most lively carnival is held in Pont-Saint-Martin. The town celebrates such festivity period with traditional bean recipes and dances, also relieving its centuries-old history with chariot races and spectacular parades. The true protagonist of such shows is the devil, whose figure is linked to the creation of the Roman bridge. The beginning of the carnival is officially announced by a cheerful hymn performed by the local musical band at dawn, on January 6. From that moment on, feverish preparations never end.

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)


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