Pont Saint-Michel

The popular island of Île de la Cité has a series of bridges linking it to the right and left banks of the Seine. On the left side, where is the Saint-Michel Square is the Pont Saint-Michel. The bridge, together with the square, draws their names from the Saint-Michel Chapel. It’s a petite bridge, recognizable with a plastered N on one of its sides.

The Pont Saint Michel has a long history, and has been constructed severally, with the first bridge dating back to 1378. The necessity of a bridge was agreed between the then legislative body of Paris and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Once the location was established, construction was started in 1379 and ending in 1387. This new bridge, a name that it was subsequently given, was an instant hit with the Parisians of the time. This was evident with the immediate construction of houses on the bridge on both sides.

The bridge was first destroyed during the thawing of the severe winter of 1407. Large blocks of ice ferried by the Seine continually shook the foundations of the bridge, and this ended with its destruction, together with any and all structures that stood upon it. Since the people were already accustomed to having a bridge by this time, a new one was constructed. Material difficulties led to the reconstruction taking place with wood. An inferior material to say the least, the wood bridge was destroyed after several close encounters with boats, and it collapsed in 1547. Learning from this, it was decided that the replacement bridge would be made in stone. This came to fruition in 1623 when the bridge was completed. It spotted four arches and had an equestrian statue together with two others- one of Saint Michael and another of the Virgin Mary. Since constructions were going to be made on the bridge anyways, it was built with an extensive width. As predicted, houses were built but they were removed after a decree to remove all housing from bridges came, not in 1786 when all others were being removed, but much later in 1808. The need to have a better stronger, more modern bridge came around in 1855, and construction started and ended in 1857, barely a year after commencement.

The Saint Michael Bridge retains its 1857 design, with its three high archers and its plastered medallions with an N, indicating it was built during the second empire. Even though it is still sometimes called the new bridge, the name Pont Saint-Michel stuck owing to avoid confusion with the New Bridge, linking the right and left banks on the Seine with Ile de la Cite in the middle of it. The Pont Saint-Michel is 62m long with 12m being dedicated to pedestrians, 6m on each side, and the central 50m being used as a roadway. It provides an alternative place to view the Seine, and though its length is not as great, it still manages to please with the scenic view one gets of Paris especially at sunset.