The Céret bridge

We are in the 14th century, here is the story of the Céret bridge. At that time the two banks of the Tech were joined by a wooden bridge regularly washed away by the floods of this unpredictable coastal river. One day a very natural idea came to the Ceretans: to build a solid bridge in masonry; but the banks of the Tech were very steep, where would one build it? The engineers of the country were summoned who, after a thorough inspection of the premises, declared the project unrealizable.

Ceret Bridge

The Céret bridge

One of them, however, after much hesitation, enticed by the large sum offered, took charge of the enterprise and undertook to bring it to a successful conclusion within a year. Our engineer drew up the plans, while the inhabitants put themselves in a position to collect the promised money. The work began and was pushed smoothly. Soon the two abutments stood at Grau d'Exala. The carpenters established the scaffolding of the vault. Misfortune ! A heavy storm arose which caused the river to overflow from its banks; the waters washed away abutments and scaffolding!

The locals, very annoyed, yelled at the engineer who, however, had no difficulty in making them understand that it was not his fault. To get back to work he asked for 5,000 more ducats. He is had. Six months later the bridge spanned the Tech with its great stone arch; in a week it will all be over. The cétans jubilant and congratulated the engineer.

Suddenly we hear a terrible and long cracking: the scaffolding hurdles break, the vault collapses, no more bridge! The anger of the Ceretans was at its height. They accused the engineer of being the author of all the evil and told him, through the mouth of their consuls, that he had to raise the bridge within six months, and that without further appeal to their purse, or he'll hang it high and short.

The poor engineer went back to work; what he sweated and toiled God alone knows. However, the appointed day, the fatal day, was approaching. The day before, everything was fine (…) but large clouds crawled over the peaks of Boularic, then descended into the valley, a cold, fast, violent wind rushed and turned in the plain; thunder rumbles, lightning tears the clouds: it's a storm, a tempest, a waterspout!

The river descends noisily, swells, gorges the banks, carries away everything that stands in its way. The Céret bridge is already gone! The desperate engineer fled through mountain trails. Suddenly a kind of man, tall, thin, lean, seized him by the arm.

- " Where are you going ? »

– “What does it matter to you; let me pass "

– “I know who you are and I want to save you”

- " And you, who are you ? »

– “What does it matter to you; let me do it. This evening at midnight, the bridge will be raised; only I put a condition that you will deliver to me the first alive one who will cross it. »

The engineer started with fright; rebuild the bridge in a few hours! The Devil alone was capable of such an effort.

“Well, what do you say to that? »

“I accept,” muttered the engineer.

Immediately a strong smell of sulfur spread through the air and the man disappeared; this man was the devil himself.

He left, the engineer stealthily returned to his home under cover of the darkness. There he began to reflect on his adventure. What to do ? Around eleven o'clock, when all was resting in the silence of the night, he left his house and headed for the Tech; he was carrying on his back a canvas sack, the contents of which the Devil himself would never have guessed. Besides, he was very busy at the moment. Indeed, true to his word, he worked diligently to rebuild the bridge, piling up the materials with the skill of a master mason. Our engineer saw it and cowered behind a rock on the shore.

Half past eleven! The vault was now taking shape under the pale rays of the moon which had just risen over the crest of the Albère. Midnight strikes! Immediately our engineer, who had gone to the end of the bridge, opened the bag from which escaped a black cat whose tail dragged an iron saucepan. The Devil lays the last stone, the keystone; he lets her escape to get his hands on this first passer-by, whom he takes for a knight ringing his armor. "Deceived, betrayed", he exclaimed, seizing the tomcat! And he disappeared, leaving the bridge unfinished.

It remained such, because all the knowledge of the engineers could not succeed in fixing the missing stone.