Don't let its name confuse you. The Pont Neuf (“New Bridge”) is in fact the oldest existing bridge in Paris. Built at the end of the 16th and finished at the beginning of the 17th century, this Parisian bridge is decorated with 381 stone masks that represent the heads of forest and field divinities from the ancient mythology. Also, on this bridge, you can see a very interesting bronze equestrian statue of King Henry IV. The Pont Neuf is a beautiful bridge that is absolutely worth visiting as it offers an incredible view of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.
Henry III, the King of France, decided to build a new bridge over the River Seine in 1578. The construction of this bridge, initially directed by an architect Baptiste Androuet du Cerceau, then by Guillaume Marchant, lasted for 30 years. At the begging of the 17th century, in 1607, the Pont Neuf was finally inaugurated under the reign of Henry IV. This new bridge was in many ways different from other existing bridges in Paris. This was the first stone bridge with the pavements protecting the pedestrians from mud and horses, and also the first Parisian bridge, built without the houses on it. Since 1894, the Pont Neuf is listed as a French national historic monument and in 1991, this bridge and the entire banks of the Seine in Paris, are listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Pont Neuf is consist of two different curves. The first curve is composed of five arches joining the left bank to the Île de la Cité and the second has seven arches joining the island to the right bank. The sides of the bridge are decorated with 381 stone masks, made by a French sculptor Germain Pilon (1525–1590). The interesting thing is that every stone mask is different. They represent the heads of forest and field divinities from the ancient mythology, and also satyrs. Today, the stone masks that you can see on the bridge are copies. The originals were replaced in 1854 during the reconstruction of the bridge. A statue of King Henry IV stands at the point where the Pont Neuf crosses the Ile de la Cité. The statue made by Giambologna, a Flemish sculptor in 1614, was destroyed during the French Revolution. Rebuilt in 1818, the new statue is the work of François-Frédéric Lemot. The four boxes were put inside of this new statue, which are containing a history of the life of Henry IV, a parchment certifying that the statue is an original, a document describing how this new statue was made, and even a list of public donors.
In 1894, the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, was even wrapped by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude with 40.000 m2 of sand-colored polyamide fabric. The wrapping began in August 1984, and it was finished one month later. Over three million people visited this interesting project which was removed on October 5th 1984.
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