When the Husband of Awesome and I were in Italy on our honeymoon, we walked across the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. Each of us, without knowing what the other planned, took a deep breath and sighed loudly as we crossed. We broke into laughter then, and I’m tickled every time I think about it.
Built in 1602, the bridge connects the city dungeons with the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s (The Duke’s) Palace. It’s made of white limestone, is fully enclosed, and the windows are barred with stone so that prisoners could not escape by jumping into the river below.
This last fact is suspect, as the bridge was popularized by Lord Byron only in the 19th century (he named it). And, he quite probably spread the rumor that it’s name evolved from the fact that as condemned prisoners crossed the bridge to their fate, they sighed at the beauty of Venice–the last thing they saw before they were executed.
In reality, according to Wikipedia, “the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals.”
Still, I find it a beautiful piece of architecture. I’m glad I had the opportunity to cross it.
Rumor has it that lovers will be granted everlasting love if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the bridge. (I’ve no idea what it means if two young lovers cross the bridge, sigh simultaneously, then guffaw in shared comedic bliss. But I’m certain those floating lovers have got nothing on us.)
Here’s your prompt: think of your favorite landmark or monument and discover if there are any local legends or false-histories about it. If you enjoy world building, create your own monument or landmark. Write its history, and its legends.
Consider: Why was it built? Does it honor one person, or many? Or, does it honor an event? What is the significance to the local population? Or, what if the local population has been conquered and nearly eradicated or absorbed…what kind of meaning is endowed to it by the conquerors? Did they try to tear it down? How long has it existed?
Once you have your landmark and legend, write a story or a scene or a vignette based on the rumor and the history.