You surely know that: despite its name, the Pont-Neuf is Paris oldest standing bridge. But do you know its story? The Pont-Neuf joins the right bank to the left via the western end of the Ile de la Cité. Works, started in 1578 under Henri III, has been stopped between 1588 and 1598 because of the religious wars and end in 1604.
It’s Henri IV, entrusted with the inauguration, who gives this name to Pont-Neuf by opposition to Paris old bridges. The Pont-Neuf is different indeed from the other bridges of the capital during this time. In addition to be the first stone bridge to overlap the Seine entirely, the Pont-Neuf is also the first bridge featuring sidewalks to protect Parisians from the mud and the carriages. Also note that the Pont-Neuf is the first bridge in Paris in the open-air – understand that no lodging has been built above, unlike the other bridges in Paris. Only a few stores could be found on its half-moon turrets in 1854.
In 1604, Henri IV has a pump house called La Samaritaine built on the Pont-Neuf and was used to supply the Louvre Palace as well as the Tuileries Palace and its garden with water. The latter has been destroyed under Louis XVI, but the pump house gave its name to the famous department store set not far from there.
In 1614, four years after Henri IV’s assassination, Marie de Medici orders to Jean de Bologne a horse statue of Henri IV. The latter, set on the Île de la Cité, at the end of the Pont-Neuf, will be melted during the French Revolution to make canons. The statue you can now see is not this very one then, but a horse stature of Henri IV created by Lemot according to Bologne’s model and inaugurated in 1818.
Listed as historic monument in 1889, the Pont-Neuf is remarkable with its 12 arches and its many contorted masks engraved in stone, that is to say 384 mascarons!
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