Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pont del Diable

I think Tarragona’s Roman aqueduct might be the most beautiful structure I have ever seen. Known as El Pont del Diable or Devil’s Bridge, it is a surviving fragment of a longer aqueduct that once carried water, mostly at ground level, for over ten kilometers to the city. This section, about two miles outside the city, is a bridge crossing a small ravine and is made up of two rows of graceful arches, all made of golden stone, stacked one upon the other in the first century A.D. There are eleven arches on the bottom and twenty-five on top. It is 90 feet high, over 650 feet long, there are no fences or entry gates, no admission charge, no graffiti, no restraints, and visitors are free to walk across the top in the channel where water once flowed.
Even having seen photos beforehand, I didn’t have the real sense of size and context until I saw it in person. I don't understand why anyone would go to Disneyland when there are so many real fairy tales to see. The aqueduct is a piece of engineering as lovely as any work of art, and after two thousand years, it is just as beautiful as ever. There is something pleasingly perfect about it
Legend goes that the master builder was desperate to finish the elevated channel, having been hindered by high winds of the mistral Exasperated, he said that only the devil could build a bridge that would withstand a thousand years, and the devil responded with an offer of help. But he didn’t want to be paid in gold: he wanted the soul of whoever would be first to drink the water brought by the channel. The bridge was finished and the master builder sent across a thirsty donkey from the work crew in payment to the devil.

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