Regardless of your religion or whether you’re an enemy or a supporter of Satan, you probably agree that, when depicted in artworks, the Prince of Darkness should look scary. A judge in a small Spanish town agreed, ruling that the installation of a statue of Beelzebub smiling and taking a selfie (really!) should be put on hold – despite the fact that it has approval by a city official -- in honor of the connection between El Diablo and a local aqueduct.
“It all began with a visit to Lübeck. They also have a local legend about the devil being duped into building a church. When I saw the little figure they had there as a tribute, I thought, ‘What a great idea to export to Segovia!’”
Artists José Antonio Abella, the creator and donor of the statue, explained to El Pais how he came up with the idea of a statue celebrating how the devil was duped in Segovia, a town in northwestern Spain famous for its Gothic cathedral, castle (an inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle, and the Roman aqueduct with the satanic connection. Historians can’t agree on the date the beautiful and huge structure was built (most likely in the first century CE), who built it or even who founded the town originally.
Send in the Satan legend. According to local folklore, the “Puente de Diablo” or Devil’s Bridge was erected by Mephistopheles after receiving an offer from young Segovian girl. Tired of fetching water from the top of the local mountain every day, she made a deal with the devil – her soul in return for an aqueduct that would end her daily drudgery … provided the satanic civil servant completed the project before the rooster crowed at dawn. She was said to have regretted the deal but it was too late – construction began immediately. Fortunately, as Lucifer went to place the last brick in the structure, the cock crowed – thus saving her soul and giving the town both its water supply and most famous landmark. The hole now contains a different statue – one of the Virgin of Fuencisla, patroness of the city.
That’s the story, which everyone in Segovia knows and loves, that José Antonio Abella wanted to honor with a free sculpture of the duped diablo. A retired doctor, he envisioned the statue being placed at a high point in the city, taking a selfie as he hopes tourists will do at that spot. And he made the devil smiling and happy in the spirit of the mythical tale. (Depictions of how the statue will look can bee seen here.) That philosophy didn’t appease the San Miguel and San Frutos Association, which was formed to stop the statue and has signatures from over 5,400 people, 10 percent of the population. Not only do they not like the idea of a statue of Satan, they really object to it being friendly rather than scary, suggesting it will cause Segovia to become a center for devil worshipers. City Councillor Claudia de Santosfrom, who supports the statue, thinks the campaign is "unfair and disheartening".
“I just can’t believe that this could happen in 21st-century Spain.”
José Antonio Abella agrees, pointing out that the statue was supposed to stand next to the former headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition in the city.
“It would appear that the inquisitors never left the country for good.”
Is the Inquisition still alive in Segovia? On January 10, the Councilor for Heritage agreed to remove the Latin word SEGODEVS from the statue because the anti-statue group claims its Latin for ‘God of Segovia’. Will that be enough to let the statue of a selfie-taking “good-natured devil” sit next to a structure they have no problem calling ‘The Devil’s Bridge’?
José Antonio Abella shouldn’t get his hopes up. As Monty Python said:
“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.”