The devil’s wager

When the old cathedral was to be replaced by a more beautiful one, Master Gerhard von Ryle, who had studied cathedral construction in France, was commissioned to submit a building plan within one year. He gladly set to work, but every time he thought he had found a feasible plan, new problems arose, so in the end he began to despair. While taking a walk on the other side of the Rhine, completely consumed by his worries, he fell asleep on a large rock, known locally as the 'Teufelsstein', or devil’s rock.

When Master Gerhard awoke, he found himself face to face with a stranger, dressed like a French builder. The stranger began to draw the lines of a building in the sand with a stick, and Gerhard recognized the completed construction plan for the cathedral. Astonished, Gerhard asked what he had to give him for this plan. The answer was: "You yourself and if you add your wife and child, I will help you erect this building in three years." But if I do not complete construction by the first cockcrow at the end of the last night, you are free.' Not even the devil can build such a massive construction within this period, thought Master Gerhard and agreed.
Work at the cathedral construction site progressed faster than ever before. The noise of the building site rang out day and night, and the master builder grew increasingly strange and whimsical. Soon, rumours started to abound that things were not quite right at the construction site. The wife of the master builder heard these rumours. In answer to her anxious questioning, Meister Gerhard told her about the sinister pact. In desperation, the woman searched for a solution. When she went to the market one day with her son, the child pointed to a magnificent cockerel and tried to mimic his cry. Delighted, the clever woman hugged her child, because she could see a way out of her desperate situation. At home, she kept practising the cockcrow until all the cockerels in the entire neighbourhood answered her cry.

The last night of the third year duly arrived and the cathedral master builder prayed to God for salvation. With the first morning light, as the last piece of the tower was lifted up to the cathedral, she let loose her cockcrow and from all directions the cockerels of the neighbourhood responded loud and clear. The cathedral collapsed with a terrible crash. The builder and his family were rescued. However, the cathedral was only completed centuries later.


Source: (Status: 24/08/2018), "The Teufelswette"
Author: Claudia Bauer


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