Paris Then and Now: the Pont Neuf and Henri IV

by / Friday, 30 August 2013 / Published in Architecture, France, History, Paris

Capture d’écran 2013-08-27 à 09.25.37

The photo above shows Pont Neuf in 1889, the same year the Eiffel Tower was constructed. The photo at the bottom I took from the same spot yesterday with my iPhone.

The Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris. King Henri III laid the first stone in 1578 in presence of his mother, Catherine de Medici. The bridge wasn’t completed until 1607 when King Henri IV was on the throne (his famous equestrian statue can be seen on the left).

Pont Neuf Henri IVOscar Pont NeufThe original statue was erected in 1618, eight years after Henri IV’s assassination, but was torn down during the French Revolution. The equestrian statue that stands on the spot today was erected in 1818.

As you can see from my photo (bottom) nothing much has changed (I took the photo standing next to the lamp, just left of where the little boy and his mother in the 1889 photo above). The one difference, of course, is the Samaritaine department store on the other side of the Seine (you can see the store sign in my photo). La Samaritaine, founded in 1869 during the Second Empire and constructed at the Pont Neuf location subsequently, was famous for its Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. It was recently closed down and is set to become a hotel and residential complex.

The two smaller photos (above left and right) I took yesterday from the banks of the Seine. They show the same stretch of the Pont Neuf from different angles. In the photo above left, you can see the equestrian statue of Henri IV emerging above the bridge. In the distance on the right you can see the top of the tower of the Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois church, which for centuries was the church of French kings who lived in the Louvre just across. It was the bell in that church that sounded the infamous St. Bartholomew Day massacre of Protestants in 1572. In the photo above right, you can see the same stretch of the bridge from the other side. Oscar is standing near the edge of the Seine, behind him are the Pont Neuf and the equestrian statue of Henri IV viewed from the back.

Capture d’écran 2013-08-29 à 19.09.01