The Saale Bridge

The bridge links the Old Town with the district of old/Altsaalfeld. The first mention of the bridge in the 14th Century describes a single lane structure. Later the bridge was no longer able to cope with the increasing traffic and since it was the only link between the Old Town and the industrial quarter, it was replaced with a new one. This new bridge survived until it was blown during in the final days of the 2nd World War. After that the Saale Bridge was once again rebuilt, and it is still the only sizable connection between the two banks of the river.

According to a legend, the Church of St John and the Saale Bridge were built at the same time. St John’s Church was built by a German builder. The Saale Bridge was constructed under the supervision of a foreign master. Both were ambitious. Both sought fame. Each was endeavouring to build larger, better and faster than the other. This eventually let to an unusual contest between the German and the foreigner. Whoever could complete his work first would be the winner.
They built quickly and at an ever-increasing pace. Before long the arches of the bridge curved from one bank of the Saale to the other. Soon the two towers of St John’s grew towards the sky. Finally only one stone and the cross on the roof were missing from the church. But as night fell the German postponed work until the following day. Not so his opponent. The bridge-builder called for the villain of the night and sold his soul to the Devil. With his help he was able to build through the night without a pause. The German builder knew nothing of this. Next day he inserted the final stone into the church. But as he was placing the cross on top of the spire, he heard shouts of delight coming from the bridge. That was the sign. The bridge was finished. His opponent had beaten him. In his shock, the German master fell from the spire.

At the same time terrible scornful laughter was heard coming from the bridge. It was the Devil, who was dragging the bridge-builder into hell. The bridge is said to have cost three silver pennies more than the church.

It is now known that St John’s Church and the Saale Bridge were not built at the same time. The bridge is older than the church; however both structures were erected under the guidance of Peter Parler’s stonemason’s lodge in Prague.

Now walk up the Saalstrasse towards the town.