From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Teufelsbrücke ('Devil's Bridge') is a bridge over the Schöllenen Gorge in the Swiss canton of Uri. The bridge provides access to the St. Gotthard Pass by crossing the gorge and the Reuss River below.
It is named for an old local legend regarding its construction by the Devil, one of many old European Devil's Bridges with similar creation myths.
The Schöllenen Gorge (Schöllenenschlucht) is an important access route to the St. Gotthard Pass. However, the valley is very narrow, featuring the dangerous river Reuss. The first bridge across the river was built in 1230. This was a wooden bridge and had to be replaced often owing to weather damage.
In the 16th century, the bridge was rebuilt in stone. In 1799, this bridge witnessed one of the most dramatic battles of Suvorov's Italian and Swiss expedition which took place during the Napoleonic Wars. During this battle the bridge was heavily damaged by the retreating French army. As a result, trade with Italy took place over the Splügenpass instead.
The first bridge was completely destroyed during a storm in 1888.
Only in 1820 could the order to build a new bridge be given. The construction of the bridge took 10 years.
By the middle of the 20th century, the second bridge was no longer able to handle the volume of traffic it received. A concrete bridge, featuring two lanes (one for each direction) was built in 1958 to accommodate heavier flow. However, the majority of traffic requiring passage between Airolo and Göschenen travels via either the Gotthard Rail Tunnel or the Gotthard Road Tunnel.
Myth of the creation of the bridge
According to a local myth, building the first bridge was very hard and so the Devil himself agreed to build it. The condition attached to the construction was that the Devil would get the soul of the first to pass over the bridge. So, when the bridge was finished, people chased a goat over the bridge. Angered by the trick, the Devil went to pick up a large stone (called Teufelsstein, the Devil's Stone) in order to smash the bridge to pieces. On his way to the bridge however, he encountered an old believing woman with a cross. Scared of the cross, he left the stone and fled.
The devil's stone weighs 220 tons and stands near Göschenen. In 1977, the stone was moved 127 meters to make way for the new motorway passing over the St.Gotthard Pass, at a cost of 300,000 Swiss Francs.
Popular belief has it that the moving of the stone was the cause of an increased number of accidents on kilometre 16 on the St. Gotthard road tunnel.