Monday, August 3, 2015

Pont Neuf

Le Pont Neuf

Le Pont Neuf (the New Bridge) is the newest bridge in Paris. It was commissioned by Henri IV; construction of the “New Bridge” began in 1578 but due to design changes and the cost and disruption of the Wars of Religion, it was not completed until 1607. Unlike the Pont Notre-Dame, the Pont Neuf does not include houses along its span, though it was designed with structures in mind; instead it has a raised area with bastions for pedestrians. It was lined with temporary shops, primarily those of booksellers. This would be the source of unusual books on virtually any subject or maps to the best knowledge of the time. As Paris was somewhat short of pleasant areas to stroll in the 17th Century, the entire neighborhood became quite popular as a place for short excursions and many people congregate there, drawn by various stands and street performers (acrobats, fire-eaters, musicians, etc.) Charlatans and quacks of various sorts are common, as well as the hustlers (shell-game hucksters, etc.) and pickpockets often found in crowds – not to mention a lively trade in prostitution. Among the many businesses are several famous tooth pullers. The crowds attracted pickpockets and other criminal elements which prompted the stationing of a company of troops permanently at the bridge (making up the first unofficial police station in Paris). A bronze statue of King Henri IV “the Great” sits at the center of the span where it crosses the Île de la Cité.

On the Right Bank at the foot of Le Pont Neuf was a district of cheap taverns much frequented by army recruiters. Potential enlistees were encouraged to join the army with great show of rich provisions and fine uniforms, much like similar areas anywhere in Europe. It was also in this neighborhood that one would find the Hôtel des Mousquetaires where D'Artagnan had his lodgings after he became a lieutenant. This was a popular residence for those members of the King's (or the Black) Musketeers. It is worthy of note that members of this regiment usually had the financial ability to maintain residences outside of their official barracks. Officers of most regiments followed similar customs.

Just off the Pont Neuf opposite the statue of Henri IV is an entrance to the Place Dauphine, a square built by Achille de Harley at the direction of Henri IV in honor of his son, Louis. It consists of thirty-two identical houses with white stone and brick and a slate roof. Each house has ground floor arcades including a ground floor gallery, two upper floors, and a square attic floor. The houses are set around a triangular square.

As with all the palaces of Paris, Palais Dauphine serves more than one function. Though intended as the residence of the Crown Prince or Dauphine, its proximity to the Louvre allows it to serve as the headquarters and offices for various parts of the royal bureaucracy and the ground floor galleries serve as a place of exchange and scholarship attracting goldsmiths, engravers, and opticians.

La Samaritaine

La Samaritaine is the name of a small tower containing a hydraulic pump, located near the north end (right bank side) of the Pont-Neuf. Built in 1609 to provide water to the royal residences nearby, the structure takes its name from a gilded bas-relief on the exterior picturing the woman of Samaria drawing water from a well as described in the Gospel of John. The building contains a clock which faces out on both the bridge and the river; atop the structure is an open ironwork steeple containing chimes that ring on the hour.

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Inner works of La Samaratine

The along with Notre Dame, the Pont Neuf is one of the distinctive locations for Ancien Paris. It is also one of the locations that is still in use today.

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