April 14: Feast day for the patron saint of bridge builders

If there is a little extra spring in the steps of the engineering staff today, it may not just be because a long weekend is a few hours away.

April 14 is the Feast Day for St. Bénézet, the patron saint of bridge builders.

An uneducated shepherd, Bénézet claimed that he was divinely commanded in a vision to build the bridge at a point where the force of the Rhône river in France was so great that it had defeated even Roman engineers.

At first, the local bishop scoffed at the tale of visions related by a frail teenager,  but eventually approved the project. Work began in 1177.

Bénézet reputedly overcame many obstacles and construction of the bridge was said to have caused 18 miraculous healings.

Convinced that the work was ordained by God, wealthy supporters formed the first “Bridge-Building Brotherhood” to fund Bénézet’s endeavour.

Bénézet died four years before the bridge was completed. He was buried in a chapel built on one of the piers.

Moral to the story: Never underestimate the power of bridge builders.

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