Monday, 11 April 2011

What to see: Alexander III Bridge, Paris

Of the bridges linking the left and right banks of the Seine, the Alexander III Bridge (Pont Alexandre III) might well be considered the most spectacular. At the time of its inauguration it was also a feast of engineering with its single span of 107 metres. The arch itself is six metres high and was constructed so that the view between the Invalides and Champs-Elysées would not be disrupted.
The foundation stone was laid in 1896 by President Félix Faure and Emperor Nikolaj II of Russia. The bridge was named for the latter’s father, the despotic Alexander III, who had died two years previously. Thus it was a symbol of the newly forged alliance between France and Russia, which would come to play such a significant role in 1914. Built for the World Exposition of 1900 and linking the exhibition grounds on either side of the river, the bridge was sometimes also referred to as the “Pont de l’Exposition”.
At either corner of the bridge is an imposing stone column, seventeen metres high, topped by a gilt bronze group of a Pegasus and symbols of glory. On the Left Bank one will find glorifications of commerce and industry above bas-reliefs representing “The Ressurgence of France” (Renaissance France) and “The France of Louis XIV”. On the Right Bank are glorifications of science and the arts as well as bas-reliefs representing modern France and France in the days of Charlemagne.
The figures and the reliefs are by P. Garnet, C. Steiner, J. Coutan, L. Marqueste, E. Frémiet, G. Michel and A. Lenoir, while the bridge itself was constructed by Jean Résal, Amédée Alby, Joseph Cassien-Bernard and Gaston Cousin.

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