Paris - Ile De France Section
Pont au Change - Paris bridge - Facts
Long before the Pont au Change
The Pont au Change is one of the bridges that link the Ile de la Cité to the Rive Droite.
Long before the Roman conquest, Lutetia the City of the Parisii, was connected to both banks by two wooden footbridges.
Around 50BC the Gallic chieftain Camulogenus destroyed them in order to stop the progression of the Roman troops.
This attempt, however, failed!
The Romans conquered our country and settled on the Ile de la Cité.
They built two wooden bridges in the extension of their Cardo and on the site of the old footbridges.
The Petit Pont spanned the narrowest arm of the river and linked the island to the Left Bank.
The Grand Pont spanned the northern and widest arm and connected it to the Right Bank.
The Vikings burned this bridge when they besieged the Ile de la Cité in the 9th century.
A 'new' wooden Grand Pont was built downstream from the original one, roughly on the site of the current Pont au Change.
However, it was not until the 12th century that this Grand Pont took the name Pont au Change.
Pont au Change, the moneylenders' bridge!
This change of name followed an ordinance of Louis VII dated from 1141.
This ordinance indeed stipulated that moneylenders, jewelers and goldsmiths (changeurs) were to exercise their trade 'only' on the bridge.
Most moneylenders of the time came either from Lombardy in Italy or from Cahors in France!
They set up businesses in the houses that lined the bridge (medieval bridges were lined with a double row of houses).
Floods and ice blocks carried by the Seine during harsh winters regularly damaged the Pont au Change over the centuries.
The bridge also burned on October 14, 1621 and was rebuilt in stone between 1639 and 1647.
However, funding for its reconstruction was left to the moneylenders, jewellers, goldsmiths and bankers who owned a shop on the bridge!
This 'new' seven-arch Pont au Change had two rows of houses; it was also the widest bridge in Paris!
A royal edit of September 7, 1786 ordered though the destruction of all structures on the bridge (their weight indeed threatened the stability of the structure).
Houses and moneylenders shops therefore disappeared, but the bridge retained its name!
It changed its name several times, though, between the 16th and 17th centuries.
It was indeed briefly known as Pont à Coulons, Pont aux Colombes, Pont aux Meuniers, Pont de la Marchandise, Pont aux Marchands and Pont aux Oiseaux!
Pont au Change – Technical facts
The Pont au Change connects the Quai de l'Horloge on the Ile de la Cité to the Quai de la Mégisserie and Quai de Gesvres on the Rive Droite.
The Boulevard du Palais connects the Pont au Change to the Pont Saint-Michel, its counterpart on the Left Bank.
The current Pont au Change dates from the Second Empire.
It was indeed rebuilt between 1856 and 1860 and therefore bears the letter N, the imperial insignia of Napoleon III.
It is composed of three 31m long arches and is 30m wide.
It is obviously one of the most photographed bridges in Paris!
Metro: Cité or Châtelet on Line 4
Coordinates: Lat 48.856291 - Long 2.346554