Zouave Statue – History and Facts

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Zouave statue seen from the Right Bank

The Zouave statue is the most famous feature of the Pont de l’Alma, a bridge that spans the Seine halfway between the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides.

The engineer Gariel built the 142m long x 42m wide bridge in the mid 1850s, and Napoleon III inaugurated it in 1856.

The Pont de l’Alma is one of the most photographed bridges in Paris, as it is famous for the statue of a Zouave soldier standing on its single pier.

The Zouaves Regiment participated to the Battle of the Alma (20/09/1854) during the Crimean War.

The battle ended in the victory of France, England, Piedmont and the Ottoman Empire over Russia.

Each of the four piers of the Pont de l’Alma was adorned with a statue representing a regiment that fought during the Crimean War.

Arnaud sculpted the statues of Infantry soldier and Artilleryman.

Diebolt sculpted the Grenadier and the famous Zouave.

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Zouave seen from the Left Bank

The Alma Bridge was rebuilt in 1974 as it had become too narrow and unstable.

The statues were transferred to other locations with the exception of the Zouave, which was placed on the bridge’s single pier.

This statue represents André-Louis Gody (1828-1896), a veteran of the Napoleonic wars who was born in Gravelines in Northern France.

The Zouave statue served traditionally as an unofficial standard to indicate the rise in the water level of the Seine, until the pier was rebuilt and slightly elevated.

The Parisians knew that the river was dangerously rising when the water reached the foot of the Zouave statue!

The year 1910 is known as the year of the ‘Flood of the Century’, as the waters rose by 8.62 m and reached the shoulders of the Zouave statue!

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Zouave statue on the bridge’s single pier

The second historical flood occurred in 1955 when the Seine rose by 7.12 m and immersed the statue up to the waist.

In 2001 the Zouave statue had water up to knee level (a 5m rise).

The latest flood dates from 27th December 2010 when the river once more overflowed its bed (3.78 m).

It reached the feet of the statue, causing major chaos in Paris, as the river banks and the Metro (underground) were closed to traffic.

Directions: 8th district 
Metro station: Alma-Marceau on Line 9

Coordinates: Lat 48.863816 – Long 2.302013

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