Exciting Facts about the Pont Neuf in Paris
Paris is a beautiful city. A city of fashion, culture, food, and great people. The city also boasts some of the most fascinating architectural attractions in the world. The city of the Eifel Tower, the Grand Palais, and other beautiful buildings. This city is also home to some amazing bridges; some of which are hundreds of years old! There are many rivers in most cities, which means the city dwellers needed bridges to cross over. Bridges have a very long history and tales, and this particular bridge is not an exception! The Pont Neuf or the New Bridge has been helpful in terms of trade and commerce not only in Paris but in France as a whole since its construction, and this was made even more evident in the wake of the 18th century. It still plays a big part in the same now as well, as being one of Paris’ top tourist attractions!
Here are some of the most interesting things that will fascinate you about this magnificent bridge, which is in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.
1. Interesting construction!
The Pont Neuf is a big bridge, definitely significant even during its early days as was considered a modern bridge in those days. Pont Neuf measures 20.50 meters wide and is 238 meters long. The span bridge has five arches from the left bank and seven arches on the east arch! The bridge was designed by Baptiste du Cerceau and Pierre des Illes, some of the most brilliant minds at the time, commissioned by King Henry II, since the existing Pont Notre Dame was not sufficient for the city’s growing traffic needs. They adapted the Roman way of building bridges, and it is evident in the arches and the sidewalks- these were the Roman architectural designs of the time. Under Napoleon III, the bridge underwent some of the first modifications; like the foundation which was rebuilt completely, and as well as the arches which were now made elliptical. The bridge crosses the mighty 780 Kilometer River Seine, the second-longest river in France, which drains into the English Channel. Since the river runs through the city there was a need to build a bridge that could help people cross over to the other side!
2. The New Bridge is not so new!
Pont Neuf or The New bridge is a spectacular bridge in Paris; a bridge, with quite an ironic name and history. The New Bridge is the oldest in Paris and we all know that Paris is quite an old city!
When the bridge was built, it was the only one of the kind, a modern bridge, the other bridges being used then did not have the architectural design that this bridge had, that is how it gained the name ‘The New Bridge’. The bridge also introduced the aspect of sidewalks, because before then, the city did not have sidewalks even along the roads and when the bridge was constructed with the sidewalks, the city adopted the concept as well. The old bridges were made of wood but this one was made of fireproof materials- steel and stone; and that is one of the reasons why it got the name as well; this was new. The bridge has been in existence for over 400 years and one can be able to see it from Notre Dame or the Louvre because it is also centrally located. The bridge crosses the Seine River and if you have been in Paris before, then you definitely must have seen it!
3. Controversial state of affairs
The people of Paris needed a new bridge because the one crossing the Seine was cumbersome to cross, made of two wooden bridges; and they could not be able to sustain a large number of people- and traffic in the city. Construction of the bridge began in 1578, took 29 years to complete, and was finally completed in 1607 and the reason it took so long was that there was a feud, and construction was halted for 10 years! King Henry III was made to run away from Paris by the Catholic League, and it was only after King Henry IV, that resumption of the construction started. The bridge has also obviously had undergone a lot of wear and tear, and restoration and modifications had to be done on it. In 2007, a 13-year restoration was completed, just in time for the 400th anniversary of the bridge. The major restoration on the bridge and the sculptures on it started in 1997. It stands tall now, just like back in the 17th century!
4. A massive number of sculpted masks
The Pont Neuf has one of the largest collection of sculptures; a whole 831 sculptured masks!!! The whole length is covered by the sculpted masks which are not very visible and one might even miss them, but the masks give the bridge a unique feel. The sculptures were done by Germain Pilon.
The statue of King Henry IV was also installed by his widow, Marie de Médicis. The bronze statue was erected at the Ile de la Cité, when King Henry IV was killed in 1610, by Francois Ravaillac; the one that stands today was erected by Louise XVIII in 1818, because the initial sculpture was damaged during the French Revolution in 1792, and was destroyed during the fall of the First Empire in 1814. The statue was melted to make cannons during the French Revolution and some of the parts of the statue are preserved and can be viewed at the Louvre.
5. The Place Dauphine
The Place Dauphine- named after the heir to the throne, the king’s son, is a public square where King Henry insisted should be created during the construction of the bridge. The square was built where the bridge crossed the Ile de la Cité, and it had very beautiful houses! During the period of the construction of the Pont Neuf, most areas around the bridges were surrounded by houses, some of them being on the bridges. King Henry IV declared that this new bridge would have no houses along it; therefore allowing people to have an even better view of the Seine River, and of course, allowing space for the new concept of walkways!