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Pont Valentré visitor guide

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Visit Pont Valentré, France

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Pont Valentré is an impressive medieval bridge on the edge of th historic centre of Cahors in south-west France. The town is surrounded by a meander in the river Lot, and the bridge crosses the west side of this bend in the river.

Explore Pont Valentré

France This Way comment: we don't usually recommend a bridge as an attraction, but Pont Valentré is so impressive and unusual that we have made an exception!

Visitors can still cross the Pont-Valentré today, although vehicles are not authorised on the bridge.

View along the Pont-Valentré in Cahors

The Pont-Valentré was built in the 14th century as part of the defences of Cahors. Unusually, it has retained the three original towers that were part of these defences and other aspects of the defensive structure, and is now considered to be the best preserved medieval bridge in France.

The bridge was actually built around 800 metres outside the original city defences, probably as part of a plan to expand and defend Cahors outside these walls ( building outside the ramparts of a town is called "extra-muros"). The main structure was built in the years after 1308, but the towers were only added at the end of the 14th century, during the Hundred Years War.

Although it was repaired at various times, the structue of the bridge remined largely unchanged until 1870, when it was fully renovated. The architect, Paul Gout, also slightly embellished the military characteristics of the bridge for purely aesthetic reasons - this was a popular approach to renovation in the 19th century, and is also seen for example in the walls around Carcassonne.

Pont-Valentré is 138 metres long and has six large arches in the gothic style. There are three main towers, each 40 metres high, as well as a defensive structure at the end of the bridge near to Cahors (there was originally another of these, at the other end of the bridge).

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The Devil's work...

Because work on the bridge was taking so long to complete the architect is said to have sold his soul to the devil in return for the devil helping him to finish the bridge, by helping whenever he was asked. With this deal in place, work on the bridge proceded quickly and efficiently.

However, at the time the last stone was being placed he tricked the devil by asking for water to be collected in a sieve from the source of the river, which made it impossible for the devil to keep his promise to complete the bridge. As a result the architect was able to keep his soul - although the devil is said to have been furious and returned every night to pull out the last stone.

There is now a small statue of the devil pulling the last stone out of place on the main tower of Pont-Valentré, added during the renovation work in 1870.

Pont Valentré and vineyard

The Pont-Valentré is also on the route of one of the most popular pilgrim paths that passes through Cahors on the way to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle in Spain: these medieval plgrim paths have seen a surge in popularity in recent years so you are likely to see pilgrims on the bridge.

At the end of the bridge there is a small vineyard and a walk along the riverside, that permits a lovely view of Pont-Valentré.

Attractions nearby

Elsewhere in the town of Cahors you can discover the historic centre and walk along the river: see the Cahors guide.

You can find more travel ideas in the Lot guide and the Midi-Pyrenees guide.

See also: 

Photos of Pont Valentré

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Map of Pont Valentré and places nearby

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Visit near Pont Valentré with France This Way reviews

Cahors

Cahors

Best known for the famous Pont Valentre bridge, Cahors is a lively town which also has a small historic centre

Cahors guide
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Cahors cathedral of Saint-Etienne guide
Albas

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Albas guide
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Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is certainly among the most beautiful villages in France, with its riverside setting and lovely historic streets

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie guide
Castelnau-Montratier

Castelnau-Montratier

Castelnau-Montratier is a historic village with an imposing church and central square

Castelnau-Montratier guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Lot

The French version of this page is at Pont Valentré (Francais)

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