Inaugurated in 1856 by Napoleon III and situated not far away from the Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac Museum and the Eiffel Tower, the Pont de l’Alma (Alma Bridge) became infamous in 1997, after tragic death of Princess Diana. The statue of the Flame of Liberty, which you can find next to the bridge, was even transformed into an unofficial memorial. But locals know this bridge mainly as a location of a stone statue named the Zouave. This statue from 1856 serves as an informal flood marker, and every Parisian will tell you that if the River Seine reaches the feet of Zouave, the footpaths along the river will be closed.
Designed by a French engineer Paul-Martin Gallocher on the request of Napoleon III, the construction of Pont de l’Alma started in 1854. Even though its inauguration was initially planned for the Universal Exhibition of 1855, the bridge was open in April 1856. It was named Alma in order to commemorate the Battle of Alma. This battle took place during the Crimean War between the Ottoman-Franco-British alliance and Russian forces on 20 September 1854. This bridge was decorated with four sculptures representing French soldiers from the Crimean War, but after the reconstruction of the bridge from 1970 to 1974, all sculptures except the Zouave were removed and relocated.
Zouave, created by a French sculptor Georges Djebolt and representing a French soldier wearing a traditional uniform worn in North Africa in the early 1800s, is also an unofficial measuring instrument for water levels of the River Seine. In Paris, everybody knows that if the water reaches the feet of Zouave, the footpaths along the embankments of the river will be closed, and if the water reaches its thighs, it is impossible to navigate. In 1910, during the Great Flood of Paris, the River Seine was eight meters above its ordinary level, and the water reached the shoulders of Zouave.
The Pont de l’Alma (Alma Bridge) became worldwide infamous after the Princess of Wales, Lady Diana lost her life tragically in the car accident in the nearby tunnel in August 1997. At the top of this tunnel stands the Flame of Liberty (La Flamme de la Liberté), a replica of the flame of the Statue of Liberty. This monument, donated by the International Herald Tribune in 1987 to commemorate the Franco-American friendship, was spontaneously transformed after 1997 in an unofficial memorial.
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