History of the Pont des Arts

Pont des Arts as painted by French painter Stanilas Lepine
Pont des Arts as painted by French painter Stanilas Lepine

The history of the Pont des Arts dates back to the early 1800s when Napoleon was convinced that the city of Paris needed to be upgraded. It was one of three new bridges ordered to be built. The Pont des Arts, constructed by French bridge engineers Louis-Alexandre de Cessart and Jacques Dillon, was the first cast-iron bridge to be built in France. Linking the Louvre and the Palais de l’Institut, this pedestrian bridge hovered its arches over the Seine. From the bridge, it is said that a person is able to view the entire city and its most renowned landmarks. Originally, the Pont des Arts was built for people of the higher class to cross.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir's depiction of Le Pont des Arts
Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s depiction of Le Pont des Arts

For the financial management of the bridge, private companies were formed. They were licensed to tax those who crossed, and a toll was required until 1848.

Throughout the years the bridge suffered severe damage that had been caused by two aerial bombardments sustained during World War I and World War II and from multiple collisions caused by boats. The first 50 or so years of existence the bridge was in a virginal state; however, it was closed to circulation in 1977 and suffered a collapse after a barge rammed into it a few years later. After being closed for safety reasons for a number of years there was talk of a reconstruction project by the architect, Louis Arretche. While it was being formulated certain historians and navigation services pleaded for the structure not to be rebuilt due to the fact that it would spoil the views of the Louvre.

The newly constructed Pont des Arts was made from steel this time around and included seven arches instead of the original nine. As its arches reduced in number over time, the importance of the remaining arches became more cherished; as stated by Peter Wilson in his essay “The Pont Des Arts, Paris- a Proposal”: “The conservation of the four remaining original arches and their reintegration into the life of the city invented two confident but respectful pieces of contemporary architecture”. The piers and abutments are made of reinforced concrete and the faces are made from dressed stone.

A couple stands on the Pont des Arts
A couple stands on the Pont des Arts

Today, the Ponts des Arts is a renowned tourist attraction in Paris. The bridge constantly serves as a place for art exhibitions and painters, artists, and photographers constantly portray it in their work because they are drawn to its unique point of view. Its beauty also allows it to serve as a frequent spot for picnics during the summer. However the Pont des Arts is mostly known today for attracting couples from all over the world to come and “lock up their love” on it’s sides. The couple engraves their names onto the padlock, locks it on the bridge, and then throws the key away into the Seine as a romantic gesture sealing their love for eternity.

Despite all the happiness and love that surrounds this popular tourist attraction, there is a large controversy amongst Parisian natives concerning the magnificent structure.

-Natalie Schneck

Read more to learn about the controversy surrounding the Pont des Arts.

Works Cited

“Dossier: Bridges.” Pont Des Arts. N.p., 9 Nov. 2007. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.

The Journal of the American Institute of Architects 6 (1918): 294-95. Google Ebooks. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.

“Pont Des Arts.” Doopedia. Naver Corp. Web. October 25, 2013.

“Pont Des Arts.” Structurae. Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn Verlag., 10 July 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

“Pont Des Arts: Traveler Reviews.” Trip Advisor. TripAdvisor LLC, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.

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