pont du diable : river hérault : france

Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is a village, Hérault department in the Occitania region in Southern France, renowned for its well-preserved medieval architecture and the Abbey of Gellone, a site of historical and religious importance. The village is nestled in the Gorges de l’Hérault, providing stunning views and a serene environment – and on the recommendation of a friend, we headed out towards the village on a roadtrip. Sadly, the weather wasn’t on our side, and as we got deeper and deeper into the countryside, the clouds gathered and the rain started to fall. However, the roads we were travelling on, were spectacular, lined with the most amazing trees.

The road to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, takes you along the stunning Herault Valley, with steep, rugged cliffs, dropping down dramatically into the winding river below. You also need to cross the Pont du Diable, one of many Devil’s Bridges in France. Although the weather prevented us spending time exploring the preserved medieval village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, it was pretty much perfect for an exploration of the bridge and surroundings. Dark, brooding clouds and increasing winds, all added to the feeling of mystery.

The Pont du Diable is a remarkable medieval stone arch bridge, spanning the Hérault River and is one of several bridges in France with this name, and attributed to various legends involving the Devil. According to local legend, the construction of the bridge was fraught with difficulties, leading the monks to strike a deal with the Devil. The Devil promised to help complete the bridge in exchange for the soul of the first living being to cross it. Upon completion, the monks tricked the Devil by sending a dog across the bridge first. Enraged by the deceit, the Devil tried to destroy the bridge but failed, and the bridge has stood firm ever since.

It was constructed between 1028 and 1031 by Benedictine monks from the Abbey of Gellone (located in Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert) and the Abbey of Aniane, and features a single, wide arch design, which was quite advanced for its time and demonstrates the engineering prowess of the medieval period. The bridge spans 50 meters and rises to a height of 18 meters, so is definitely a pretty impressive structure, Originally built to facilitate safe passage for pilgrims traveling to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, the bridge became an important stop on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, and also improved local connectivity, promoting trade and communication in the region. It is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage designation for the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. Located near the Gorges de l’Hérault, it is a scenic area perfect for hiking, swimming, and other outdoor activities – and even on the day we visited, there were very brave people jumping in and swimming.

Maybe next time, we’ll get to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, but if not, just pretty delighted that we stumbled across this particular Devil’s Bridge, albeit on a stormy day.

Published on 27th May 2024