Pont Neuf

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The name Pont Neuf means New Bridge.

This bridge is considered to be the oldest stone bridge in Paris. It was constructed in 1578 by the order of Henri IV and has 12 arches and 384 faces installed on it. The Pont Neuf connects the 1st and 6th arrondissements to the Ile de la Cite where the famous Notre Dame sits. This connection was absolutely necessary for getting traffic of people and goods across the river.

Take a minute and check out the, rather, grotesque faces. There is a legend about these heads: King Henri IV was a bit of a philander and enjoyed the company of anything female. It is said that the mascarons on the bridge are the faces of the cheated husbands, there is even one female on the bridge. The ones you see are replicas of the originals on display at the Musée Carnavalet.

The bridge is nicknamed the Le Pont des Trois Henri – translation: the Three Henry’s Bridge. That is because the first idea of a bridge that would connect the Louvre to the new neighborhoods in Paris was by King Henri II around 1545. Construction started under King Henri III in 1577 and the bridge was inaugurated by King Henri IV in 1607. Henri was a popular name it seems.

The Pont Neuf was actually ahead of its time and feat of engineering. Before this point, all bridges were made of mainly wood and included houses on the sides, but most of them collapsed. This was the first bridge to be built with stone and had no houses on it.

King Henri IV rides a horse and watches over the bridge. This was the first equestrian statue erected in Paris and the first free-standing statue not attached to any building. The first statue was melted down during the French Revolution. So, the one you see now is a replacement from 1818.

There is an old legend that states the sculptor of the new statue hid anti-royalist pamphlets inside. In 2004, the city decided to open the statue to dismiss the rumors of something inside. Inside the belly of the beast were found 7 boxes containing documents relating to the inauguration of the statue, the King, and some medals. Some scrolls belonging to the sculptor were found but seemed to be in code. They were never deciphered.

The base of the pedestal is inscribed with “The revered statue of the most illustrious King Henry the Great, who had been a father to his people, was thrown down, to the indignation of France, during the Revolution. After the desired return of Louis XVIII, citizens from all orders joined together and restored it, as well as the honorary inscription destroyed at the same time as the statue, which they had carved back into the stone. Done on August 25, 1818.”

Pont Neuf

In 1984, sewer workers in Paris came face to face with a crocodile near the bridge. The animal was just under 2 ½ feet but something that was not normally found in the City of Lights. It was captured by firefighters and was placed at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris but was later moved to the Aquarium of Vannes. If you find yourself in Brittany, France, visit her, she is named Eleanore and is now almost 10 feet long.

Some say French fries were born on the bridge. According to some historians, Pommes du Pont Neuf was invented by street vendors on this bridge after the Revolution of 1789. These potatoes were cut into slices and fried in lard or butter.

Helpful Information

Best Time to Visit: Free to visit at any time. The bridge can be found at 48.857628828887584, 2.3412822846552013, near Cathedrale Notre Dame.

Important Information

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Kristal Ham

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