Thursday, 5 January 2012

Pont des Arts, Paris

The Institut de France overlooking the Pont des Arts

The Pont des Arts in the heart of Paris is a pedestrian bridge which connects the Institut de France, the home of the French Academy, with the courtyard of the Louvre palace. 

The original bridge was constructed between 1801-1804 and was the first metal bridge in the French capital. On the day of its inauguration 65,000 Parisians turned up to pay their 2 sous toll to use the bridge to cross the river.

Le Pont des Arts by André Kertész
In 1929 the Hungarian born photographer André Kertész, in one of his most startling pictures of Paris, photographed the bridge through the clock face of Institut de France. And during the Second World War the bridge was the clandestine meeting place of Jacques Lecompte-Boinet and members of the resistance movement known as Ceux de la Résistance (Those of the Resistance). It was here also that copies of publications of Editions de Minuit, the clandestine publisher founded by Jean Bruller, known as Vercros, were passed to Lecompte-Boinet for General de Gaulle.

In 1977 the bridge was closed after being deemed unsafe for public use due to damage it had received during the bombardments of the Second World War and numerous collisions of river boats. And in 1979 it collapsed after being hit by a barge. It was rebuilt in 1981 with seven arches in place of the original nine, and was inaugurated on 27 June 1984 by the then mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac.

Since 2008 the Pont des Arts has also became known for its Cadenas d'amour, or Locks of Love, whereby couples attach padlocks to the railings of the bridge, with names or initials, dates, and sometimes message of eternal love, inscribed on them. Between the 10th and 12th of May 2010 almost all of the locks were removed during the night, though the public authorities denied that they were behind it. The practice, which is believed to have began in Hungary in the 1980s, and is now spread throughout Europe, was quickly resumed, though the Paris municipality is searching for an alternative structure for the love-struck to hang their tokens on, in order, they say, to preserve the heritage of the bridge, which has been a national monument since 1975.

Padlocks of Love on the Pont des Arts

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