Satanic tourism fears dismissed over statue of devil in Segovia

The Prince of Darkness is set to add a small corner of the Spanish city of Segovia to his temporal portfolio after a judge rejected complaints that a proposed statue of the devil was an affront to religious sensibilities that could make the city a focus of satanic worship.

The local council commissioned the statue to celebrate the legend that its Roman aqueduct was built by the devil in a single night – and to get tourists into less-visited neighbourhoods.

But a judge temporarily halted the statue’s installation after a local group launched an online petition claiming the paunchy, selfie-taking effigy was overly jovial and insufficiently repulsive to constitute an accurate representation of Satan.

The group also expressed fears that the bronze statue could prove a magnet for people inclined towards diabolical veneration.

On Thursday, however, the city council was informed that the judge had dismissed the complaint and ordered the complainants to pay €500 (£440) in legal costs.

Segovia’s heritage councillor, Claudia de Santos, said the decision meant the statue could be installed as early as next week on the intended spot 200 metres from the aqueduct.

“We’re living in a time when people and groups can use social media to amplify their grievances when they feel their rights are being attacked,” said De Santos. “But I think the great majority of Segovians would see what they’ve done as irrational. We don’t understand how they can claim that this statue somehow violates their religious sensibilities.”

She said the council’s aim had always been to use the legend and statue to attract more visitors to other examples of the city’s Roman and medieval splendours.

Asked how the council felt about suggestions that the statue could make Segovia a pilgrimage site for satanists, De Santos replied: “I don’t think there’s any possible answer to that question. I don’t have the intellectual capacity to counter it and I doubt there is such a thing as satanic tourism.”

The statue’s sculptor, José Antonio Abella, said he was delighted at the judge’s decision and hoped it would end the media frenzy of the past few days.

Abella said he was angry that his son had been abused online for politely asking people to sign a counter-petition to get the statue up.

“What a load of nonsense,” he said. “And I’ve even ended up talking to CNN about all this.”