Pont Neuf
The Pont Neuf is, despite its name, the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. Its name, which was given to distinguish it from older bridges that were lined on both sides with houses, has remained.

Standing by the western point of the Île de la Cité
Île de la Cité
The Île de la Cité is one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris . It is the centre of Paris and the location where the medieval city was refounded....

, the island in the middle of the river that was the heart of medieval Paris
History of Paris
The history of Paris, France, spans over 2,000 years, during which time the city grew from a small Gallic settlement to the multicultural capital of a modern European state, and one of the world's major global cities.-Ancient place:...

, it connects the Rive Gauche
Rive Gauche
La Rive Gauche is the southern bank of the river Seine in Paris. Here the river flows roughly westward, cutting the city in two: looking downstream, the southern bank is to the left, and the northern bank is to the right....

of Paris with the Rive Droite
Rive Droite
La Rive Droite is most associated with the river Seine in central Paris. Here the river flows roughly westwards, cutting the city into two: looking downstream, the northern bank is to the right, and the southern bank is to the left....


The bridge is composed of two separate spans, one of five arches joining the left bank to the Île de la Cité, another of seven joining the island to the right bank. Old engraved maps of Paris show how, when the bridge was built, it just grazed the downstream tip of the Île de la Cité; since then, the natural sandbar building of a mid-river island
An ait is a small island. It is especially used to refer to islands found on the River Thames and its tributaries in England....

, aided by stone-faced embankments called quais, has extended the island. Today the tip of the island is the location of the Square du Vert-Galant, a park named in honour of Henry IV
Henry IV of France
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....

, nicknamed the "Green Gallant".


As early as 1550, Henry II
Henry II of France
Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559.-Early years:Henry was born in the royal Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, the son of Francis I and Claude, Duchess of Brittany .His father was captured at the Battle of Pavia in 1525 by his sworn enemy,...

 was asked to build a bridge here because the existing Pont Notre-Dame
Pont Notre-Dame
The Pont Notre-Dame is a bridge that crosses the Seine in Paris, France linking the quai de Gesvres on the Rive Droite with the quai de la Corse on the Île de la Cité...

 was overloaded, but the expense was too much at the time.

In 1577, the decision to build the bridge was made by King Henry III
Henry III of France
Henry III was King of France from 1574 to 1589. As Henry of Valois, he was the first elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the dual titles of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1573 to 1575.-Childhood:Henry was born at the Royal Château de Fontainebleau,...

 who laid its first stone in 1578, during which year the foundations of four piers and one abutment were completed. A major design change was made in 1579 requiring the widening of the bridge to allow houses to be built (though they never were) made the piers on the long arm longer. These piers were built over the next nine years. After a long delay beginning in 1588, due in part to the Wars of Religion
French Wars of Religion
The French Wars of Religion is the name given to a period of civil infighting and military operations, primarily fought between French Catholics and Protestants . The conflict involved the factional disputes between the aristocratic houses of France, such as the House of Bourbon and House of Guise...

, construction was resumed in 1599. The bridge was completed under the reign of Henry IV, who inaugurated it in 1607.

Like most bridges of its time, The Pont Neuf is constructed as a series of many short arch bridge
Arch bridge
An arch bridge is a bridge with abutments at each end shaped as a curved arch. Arch bridges work by transferring the weight of the bridge and its loads partially into a horizontal thrust restrained by the abutments at either side...

s, following Roman precedents. It was the first stone bridge in Paris not to support houses in addition to a thoroughfare, and was also fitted with pavements protecting pedestrians from mud and horses; pedestrians could also step aside into its bastion
A bastion, or a bulwark, is a structure projecting outward from the main enclosure of a fortification, situated in both corners of a straight wall , facilitating active defence against assaulting troops...

s to let a bulky carriage pass. The decision not to include houses on the bridge can be traced back directly to Henry IV, who decided against their inclusion on the grounds that houses would impede a clear view of the Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

, which he extended substantially during his reign.

The bridge had heavy traffic from the beginning; it was for a long time the widest bridge in Paris. The bridge has undergone much repair and renovation work, including rebuilding of seven spans in the long arm and lowering of the roadway by changing the arches from an almost semi-circular to elliptical form (1848–1855), lowering of sidewalks and faces of the piers
Pier (architecture)
In architecture, a pier is an upright support for a superstructure, such as an arch or bridge. Sections of wall between openings function as piers. The simplest cross section of the pier is square, or rectangular, although other shapes are also common, such as the richly articulated piers of Donato...

, spandrels, cornice
Cornice molding is generally any horizontal decorative molding that crowns any building or furniture element: the cornice over a door or window, for instance, or the cornice around the edge of a pedestal. A simple cornice may be formed just with a crown molding.The function of the projecting...

s and replacing crumbled corbel
In architecture a corbel is a piece of stone jutting out of a wall to carry any superincumbent weight. A piece of timber projecting in the same way was called a "tassel" or a "bragger". The technique of corbelling, where rows of corbels deeply keyed inside a wall support a projecting wall or...

s as closely to the originals as possible. In 1885, one of the piers of the short arm was undermined, removing the two adjacent arches, requiring them to be rebuilt and all the foundations strengthened.

A major restoration of the Pont Neuf was begun in 1994 and was completed in 2007, the year of its 400th anniversary.

The equestrian statue of Henry IV

At the point where the bridge crosses the Île de la Cité
Île de la Cité
The Île de la Cité is one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris . It is the centre of Paris and the location where the medieval city was refounded....

, there stands a bronze equestrian statue of King Henry IV of France
Henry IV of France
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....

, originally commissioned from Giambologna
Giambologna, born as Jean Boulogne, incorrectly known as Giovanni da Bologna and Giovanni Bologna , was a sculptor, known for his marble and bronze statuary in a late Renaissance or Mannerist style.- Biography :...

 under the orders of Marie de Médicis, Henri’s widow and Regent of France, in 1614. After his death, Giambologna's assistant Pietro Tacca
Pietro Tacca
Pietro Tacca was an Italian sculptor, who was the chief pupil and follower of Giambologna. Tacca began in a Mannerist style and worked in the Baroque style during his maturity.-Biography:...

 completed the statue, which was erected on its pedestal by Pietro Francavilla
Pietro Francavilla
Pierre Franqueville, generally called Pietro Francavilla , was a Franco-Flemish sculptor trained in Florence, who provided sculpture for Italian and French patrons in the elegant Late Mannerist tradition established by Giambologna....

, in 1618. It was destroyed in 1792 during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, but was rebuilt in 1818, following the restoration of the Bourbon
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 monarchy. Bronze for the new statue was obtained with the bronze from a statue of Louis Charles Antoine Desaix
Louis Charles Antoine Desaix
Louis Charles Antoine Desaix was a French general and military leader. According to the usage of the time, he took the name Louis Charles Antoine Desaix de Veygoux.-Biography:...

 and cast from a mold made using a surviving cast of the original. Inside the statue, the new sculptor François-Frédéric Lemot
François-Frédéric Lemot
François-Frédéric Lemot was a French sculptor, working in the Neoclassical style.-Biography:Lemot was born at Lyon....

 put four boxes, containing a history of the life of Henry IV, a 17th-century parchment certifying the original statue, a document describing how the new statue was commissioned, and a list of people who contributed to a public subscription.

Resting place of Jacques de Molay

The last Grand Master of the Knights Templar
Knights Templar
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

, Jacques de Molay
Jacques de Molay
Jacques de Molay was the 23rd and last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, leading the Order from 20 April 1292 until it was dissolved by order of Pope Clement V in 1312...

, was burned at the stake
Execution by burning
Death by burning is death brought about by combustion. As a form of capital punishment, burning has a long history as a method in crimes such as treason, heresy, and witchcraft....

 on the Île de la Cité
Île de la Cité
The Île de la Cité is one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris . It is the centre of Paris and the location where the medieval city was refounded....

 near the Pont Neuf, on 18 March 1314. The execution was ordered by Philippe le Bel
Philip IV of France
Philip the Fair was, as Philip IV, King of France from 1285 until his death. He was the husband of Joan I of Navarre, by virtue of which he was, as Philip I, King of Navarre and Count of Champagne from 1284 to 1305.-Youth:A member of the House of Capet, Philip was born at the Palace of...

 (Philip the Fair) after Jacques retracted all of his previous confessions, which outraged Philip.

La Samaritaine

Between 1712 and 1719, a large pump house was built on the bridge
(replacing an earlier one) and decorated with an image of the Samaritan woman at
the well. As a result, the structure (which included a carillon) was named La Samaritaine. Years after it was torn down (in 1813), Ernest Cognacq, a 19th century merchant, set up a stand on the site and gradually grew
his business to what became, in 1869, the (recently closed) department store
La Samaritaine
La Samaritaine
La Samaritaine was a large department store in Paris, France, located in the First Arrondissement. The nearest metro station is Pont-Neuf. It is currently owned by LVMH, a luxury-goods maker. The store, which had been operating at a loss since the 1970s, was finally closed in 2005 because the...


The Pont Neuf as the center of Paris

All through the 18th century, the Pont Neuf was the center of Paris,
lively with both crime and commerce:
Czar Peter the Great, who came to
study French civilization under the regency of the Duke d'Orleans, declared
that he had found nothing more curious in Paris than the pont Neuf; and,
sixty years later, the philosopher Franklin wrote to his friends in America
that he had not understood the Parisian character except in crossing the pont

In 1862, Édouard Fournier traced its history in his lively two-volume Histoire du Pont-Neuf. He describes how, even before it was completed (in 1607), gangs hid out in and around it and robbed and murdered people. It remained a dangerous place even as it became busier. For a long time, the bridge even had its own gallows.

This did not prevent people from congregating there, drawn by various stands and street performers (acrobats, fire-eaters, musicians, etc.) Charlatans and quacks of various sorts were also common, as well as the hustlers (shell-game hucksters, etc.) and pickpockets often found in crowds – not to mention a lively trade in prostitution. Among the many businesses which, however unofficially, set up there were several famous tooth pullers.

In 1701, Cotolendi quoted a letter supposedly written by a Sicilian tourist:
One finds on the Pont-Neuf an infinity of people who give tickets, some
put fallen teeth back in, and others make crystal eyes; there are those who
cure incurable illnesses; those who claim to have discovered the virtues of
some powdered stones to white and to beautify the face. This one claims he
makes old men young; there are those who remove wrinkles from the forehead
and the eyes, who make wooden legs to repair the violence of bombs; finally
everybody is so applied to work, so strongly and continually, that the
devil can tempt no one but on Holidays and Sundays.

With its numerous sellers of pamphlets and satirical performers, it was also a center for social commentary:
In the 16th cent, the Pont-Neuf was the scene of the recitals of Tabarin,
a famous satirist of the day, and it was long afterwards the favourite
rendezvous of news-vendors, jugglers, showmen, loungers, and thieves. Any
popular witticism in verse was long known as un Pont-Neuf.

In the seventeenth century, that bridge of memories, the old Pont Neuf of
Paris, was the rendezvous of quacksalvers and mountebanks. Booths for the
sale of various articles lined the sides of the bridge. People flocked there
to see the sights, to laugh, chat, make love and enjoy life as only
Parisians can. Students and grisettes of the Quartier Latin elbowed ladies and
gentlemen of the court. Bourgeois families came to study the flippant manners
of their superiors. Poodle clippers plied their trade; jugglers amused the quid nuncs with feats of dexterity; traveling dentists pulled teeth and sold balsams ; clowns tumbled, and last, but not least, pickpockets lifted
purses and silk handkerchiefs with impunity. Says Augustus J. C. Hare
(Walks in Paris) : "So central an artery is the Pont Neuf, that it used to be a
saying with the Parisian police, that if, after watching three days, they
did not see a man cross the bridge, he must have left Paris." Any popular
witticism in verse was long known as un Pont-Neuf. One of the principal
vendors of quack nostrums of the Pont Neuf was Montdor. He was aided by a
buffoon named Tabarin, who made facetious replies to questions asked by his
master, accompanied with laughable grimaces and grotesque gestures. The modern
ringmaster and clown of the circus have similar scenes together, minus the
selling of medicines.

Under Louis XV, thieves and entertainers were joined by recruiters, or
"sellers of human flesh" who did their best to lure newcomers to Paris and
others "with as much violence as the sale of Negros in the Congo". Silversmiths and other luxury businesses nearby (who gave their name to
today's Quai des Orfevres) drew visitors as well.

One yearly event, held on the nearby Place Dauphine
Place Dauphine
The Place Dauphine is a public square located near the western end of the Île de la Cité in the first arrondissement of Paris. From the "square", actually triangular in shape, one can access the middle of the ancient bridge called the Pont Neuf. The bridge connects the left and right banks of the...

, prefigured the Salon
des Refusés which would later give rise to the Impressionists. During the
celebration of the Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi (feast)
Corpus Christi is a Latin Rite solemnity, now designated the solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ . It is also celebrated in some Anglican, Lutheran and Old Catholic Churches. Like Trinity Sunday and the Solemnity of Christ the King, it does not commemorate a particular event in...

 (Fête-Dieu) the Place Dauphine hosted one
of the most magnificent reposoirs (portable altars for the Host).

Along with all the rich silverwork and tapestries placed on it, some local
silversmiths ordered paintings for these. This led to art dealers being
asked to participate and ultimately to the newest talents being shown at the
Petite Fête-Dieu (the Small Corpus Christi), a reduced version of the Corpus
Christi holiday which took place eight days later. Though their canvases
were only shown from six in the morning to noon, this became an important
opportunity for unknown artists to draw attention. Among other things, this
led to the painters there signing their work, as was not frequent in the
Salon – which was not always an advantage when the work was publicly and
loudly critiqued.

Showing works which often had no pretense of a religious subject, they
might then be noticed and find an entree into the official Academy. Chardin is
one of the most famous painters to have started this way.
In 1720, a young man of about twenty-two, son of the man who maintained
the king's billiards, displayed a canvas here showing an antique bas-relief.
J.-B. Vanloo passed by, looked at the canvas for a long time, found great
qualities there, and bought it. He wanted afterwards to know the young
painter, encouraged him, gave him advice, of which the latter perhaps had no
need, got him work, which was more useful, and eight years later, the unknown
of the place Dauphine was his colleague at the Academy of Painting.... he
was called Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities...


The slow decline of the bridge's central role began in 1754: "Starting in 1754, the first year of the vogue, the madness of the boulevards, it was no longer the thing to talk about the Cours [the Champs-Elysées], and still less
of this poor Pont-Neuf. To the Boulevard, at once, long live the Boulevard!". Still the bridge remained a lively place through the end of the century. With time, people became wary of its reputation and other
changes subdued its atmosphere; in 1840, Lacroix wrote: "Once the pont Neuf was a perpetual fair; at present, it is just a bridge to be crossed without stopping.".

First daguerrotype ever with human being?

About two years before M. Daguerre made his famous daguerrotype of Boulevard du Temple
Boulevard du Temple
The Boulevard du Temple is a thoroughfare in Paris that separates the 3rd arrondissement from the 11th. It runs from the Place de la République to the Place Pasdeloup, and its name refers to the nearby Knights Templars' Temple where they established their Paris priory.-History:The Boulevard du...

, where a human being is recognizable, the inventor photographed other places in Paris to experiment the new technique in plein air. In the very first example of his own attempts, he made an image of the Pont Neuf and the equestrian statue of Henry IV. Since early images were mirrored, at the left side (actually the right side) of the statue we can clearly see one (or two) worker(s) lying under the statue shadow.

Christo's Project

In 1985, the art duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were a married couple who created environmental works of art...

 wrapped the Pont Neuf, after years of negotiation with Paris' mayor.


See also

  • Les Amants du Pont-Neuf
    Les Amants du Pont-Neuf
    Les Amants du Pont-Neuf is a 1991 French film directed by Leos Carax, starring Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant. The title refers to the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris...

    (The Lovers on the Bridge), a film by Leos Carax
    Leos Carax
    Leos Carax is a French-born film director, critic, and writer. Carax is noted for his poetic style and his tortured depictions of love. His first major work was Boy Meets Girl , and his notable works include Lovers on the Bridge and the controversial Pola X...

    , released in 1991.
  • List of crossings of the River Seine

External links

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