The Legend of Puente de San Martin – How One Woman Saved Her Husband from Disgrace:
It is often said that behind every successful man, there stands a woman and one of the more appealing legends from Toledo involves the Puente de San Martin (San Martin Bridge) and how one smart woman saved her husband from disgrace… if not death!
Puente de San Martin is located to the west of the old city of Toledo. Built in the Middle Ages, this bridge crosses the Tagus River in Toledo and is part of the city’s medieval heritage. As we crossed this bridge we were told of this legend.
The Legend of Puente de San Martin
The Puente de San Martin was built in the middle of the 14th century to replace an earlier bridge in the area.
The earlier bridge had been destroyed during the war between Don Pedro I and his stepbrother Don Enrique II. It was rebuilt on the orders of Archbishop Pedro Tenorio.
The bridge consists of five pointed arches on strong pillars and it has a fortified tower at each end. When the bridge was at an advanced stage of construction, the engineer responsible for the project realized that he had made a miscalculation. Once all the scaffolding were removed, the central arch of the bridge would not be strong enough to support the weight of the cartloads of stone being brought in for the construction of the Toledo Cathedral.
He was deeply worried that the years of work would have gone to waste and even more about the cost of the project. The best he could hope for would be a loss of reputation, but one suspects he was more worried about the kinds of punishment that are meted out during the Middle Ages. He told no one about his realization, but got more and more depressed as each stone was added to the bridge. Finally he confided in wife.
Behind Every Successful Man is a Smart WomanAlthough the engineer’s wife tried to console her husband, it didn’t cheer him up. Then one night she crept out during a thunderstorm, went to the bridge and set fire to the beams supporting the middle arch. Once the framework was totally burnt through, the arch collapsed.
The next day, the people thought that it was the storm that had destroyed their bridge. Work on the rebuilding of the bridge continued and the engineer was able to rework his calculations. This resulted in a strong arch spanning 40 metres and 27 metres above the river at the central point. This was quite an achievement during that period.
Some have subsequently tried to give credit to the engineer’s wife by saying that the sculpture inserted in the keystone of the bridge is the face of the engineer’s wife. However in spite of the erosion of the stone over the centuries, it is the mitred head of the Archbishop Tenerio that can still be made out.