The two-span Pont-Neuf

The Pont-Neuf traverses the western tip of the Ile de la Cité.

Pont-Neuf and Ile de la Cite
Pont-Neuf and Ile de la Cite

It runs between the Place Dauphine and Square du Vert-Galant and connects the Ile de la Cité to both the right and left banks.

The architect Androuet du Cerceau designed the twelve-arch – two-span stone bridge.

The five-arch span links the Ile de la Cité to the left bank.

The seven-arch span links it to the right bank.

It also allows prime views of the Louvre Palace and La Samaritaine former department store!

The 232m long by 22m wide Pont-Neuf was restored a few times and was partly rebuilt.

However, despite its name – Pont-Neuf means New Bridge – it is the oldest standing bridge in Paris!

The name was initially chosen in order to differentiate it from the city’s centuries old bridges.

The latest restoration work was conducted between 1994 and 2007 on the occasion of its 400th anniversary celebrations.

Pont-Neuf , the first Paris bridge with no houses

The construction of the Pont-Neuf was planned in the 1550s in order to relieve the traffic congestion on the old Pont Notre-Dame.

Who thought that traffic jam was a modern concept?!

Henri III laid the first stone on 31st May 1578.

Pont-Neuf seen from upstream
Seen from upstream

However, construction work was delayed due to some change of plan.

This included the widening of the structure in order to allow for a double row of houses on its top.

The piers were widened and reinforced over the following years and therefore look like bastions.

Construction work was then halted during the Wars of Religion.

They resumed in 1599 under the reign of Henri IV.

However, the houses were never built and the Pont-Neuf was in fact the first Parisian bridge with no houses!

Henri IV inaugurated the Pont-Neuf in 1607.

He was assassinated in 1610.

Equestrian statue of Henri IV

In 1614 his widow Marie de Medici commissioned the sculptor Giambologna with the creation of the bronze equestrian statue of Henri IV.

Giambologna died before completion and his assistant Pietro Tacca took over.

Pietro Francavilla placed the statue on its pedestal in 1618.

Equestrian statue of Henri IV on Pont-Neuf
Equestrian statue of Henri IV on Pont-Neuf

This original statue was sadly destroyed during the French Revolution.

A public subscription was therefore launched during the Restoration to produce a new one.

An identical replica was eventually cast from the statue’s original mold in 1818.

Lemot, the sculptor in charge of the work, placed four sealed boxes inside the base of the statue.

These contain an historical resume of King Henri IV’s life, the historic of the commission, the names of all the people who funded its creation, and a 17th document attesting that the statue was an identical replica made from the cast of the original.

The equestrian statue of Henri IV stands on the tiny Place du Pont-Neuf, at the junction of the bridge’s two spans.

The statue faces east towards the Ile de la Cité.

However, if you look closely you’ll find that the King looks towards Notre-Dame while his horse’s head is slightly tilted.

The king is represented wearing his armor.

He is crowned with laurel and holds a scepter bearing the royal Fleur de Lys emblem in his right hand.

The sides of the pedestal are adorned with low reliefs; the front is inscribed with a dedication in Latin.

This statue was classified Historical Monument in 1992.

La Samaritaine Pump under the Pont-Neuf

Pont-Neuf at sunset seen from downstream
Pont-Neuf at sunset

A water pump known as Pompe de la Samaritaine was also installed under the Pont-Neuf in 1608.

It supplied water to the nearby Louvre Palace.

It was pulled down in 1813, however, left its name to the iconic former department store founded in 1870 by Ernest Cognacq-Jay on the Rive Droite.

You’ll get the best picture of the Pont-Neuf from the Pont des Arts, the footbridge that spans the Seine between the Louvre and the Institut de France.

From there you’ll see the two spans of the bridge; it’s quite impressive, especially on a sunny day.

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