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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte Alcock

A Brief History of Pont Alexandre III in Paris

What is Pont Alexandre III?

Pont Alexandre III is one of Paris's most elegant bridges with sweeping views of the city, first laid by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia between 1896 and 1900.

Pont Alexandre III History

Just before the turn of the 20th century, the German Empire was extending its influence across Europe. Both Russia and the French republic, in fear of being politically isolated, formed an alliance. This now iconic bridge, decked with triple lamps and elaborate sculpture, was built as a symbol of this agreement.

The tyrannical Russian Tsar who had overseen the treaty, Alexander III, contracted a fatal kidney disease and passed away in 1894 at the age of 49. His son and heir, the young Tsar Nicholas II, laid the first stone of this bridge, and as a diplomatic gesture from the French government, it was named in memory of his deceased father.

The resplendent bridge, described by its contemporaries as ‘peerless in all the world’, was inaugurated on the occasion of the 1900 Paris Exposition, heralding a new century of human progress and achievement. Pont Alexandre is a genuine feat of engineering and architecture, constructed with a single arch span, yet built low enough not to obstruct views of Paris.

Pont Alexandre III sculpture close up

The bridge certainly symbolises the wealth of early 20th-century France, with a width of 40 metres and brilliantly decorated with 1.8 kilograms of gold. A selection of France’s finest artists worked on its ornamental features, including the sculptors Jules Dalou and Georges Gardet, who designed the lion statues which feature on the bridge.

Each of its tall pillars was decorated with gilt-bronze statues of Greek mythological figures. These represent the Arts and Sciences (on the right bank), and Commerce and Industry (on the left bank), and also act as counterweights for the stability of the bridge. Set above the arches of the bridge are sculptures of nymphs in hammered copper: upstream the Nymphs of the Seine surround the arms of Paris, and downstream the Nymphs of the Neva bear the arms of Russia.

Unsurprisingly, this iconic site with its sweeping vistas of the city has featured in a number of famous films, including the 1985 James Bond movie A View to a Kill, and more recently Woody Allen’s fantasy comedy Midnight in Paris.

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