Seine River, Paris France
Pont Alexandre III might just be my favorite landmark in Paris. Given all the splendid options to tour in the City of Lights, this made choosing Pont Alexandre III difficult.
Named after Tsar Alexander III, who concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892, the foundation was laid by son Nicholas II in 1896. Construction of Pont Alexandre III, designed by architects Joseph Cassien-Bernard and Gaston Cousin, took three years. First prefabricated in a factory and later transported and assembled by crane, you could say that this bridge was one of the first ‘pre-fab’ jobs in history. Subject to strict controls that prevented obscuring the views of the Champs-Élysées or Les Invalides, the result is a very low 40-meter (132 feet) wide bridge with a single 107.5-meter (353 feet) long span and a height of only 6 meters (20 feet). The bridge was designed with only a few arches so that river traffic would be minimally impacted by the new span.
Adorned by Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses on either end, Pont Alexandre III reflects the style of the Grand Palais. Both were inaugurated in time for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, allowing the 50 million Expo visitors to cross the Seine River with ease.
While the copper statues are lavish, the main feature of Pont Alexandre III is the four 17 meter-high pillars with their shining gilded statues that play an integral role in making sure that the bridge stays intact, as they act as counterweights and give balance to the structure:
- On the north bank, the golden statue standing closest to Grand Palais is called “Fame of Agriculture”. The sculpture at the base of the pillar is called “La France Pacifique” (“Peaceful France”).
- The statue on the Petit Palais side of the north bank is called “Fame of Arts” and the statue at the pillar is called “Charlemagne’s France.”
- On the opposite side of Pont Alexandre III, the pillar closer to the Eiffel Tower is called “Fame of Battle” and the statue at the base is “La France de la Renaissance.”
- The last golden statue is called “Fame of War” and the statue at its base is known as “Louis XIV’s France.”
At the center of the arches, Nymphs of the Seine appears with the arms of France on the downstream side corresponding to the Nymphs of the Neva with the arms of Imperial Russia on the upstream side – both in hammered copper over forms by George Récipon.
Although many criticized the many styles blended to create the Pont Alexandre III at the completion of construction, the bridge is today regarded as a marvel of 19th century engineering and a world-class bridge of splendor; and here at In Classic Style, we heartily agree.