Short description

The Pont-au-Change bridge connects the Ile-de-la-Cité from the Palais de Justice, the Conciergerie and the Tribunal de Commerce, to the right bank at the level of the Châtelet theater. It is located on the boundary between the 1st and 4th districts of Paris.

The first bridge built here in the 9th century underwent a succession of floods over the centuries, each time losing arches that were always rebuilt. The rebuilding between 1639 and 1647 was financed by the moneychangers and goldsmiths who occupied it, but it was not until 1860 that the present bridge was built.

Localisation
Access

Pont au Change
75001 PARIS and 75004 PARIS

  • Metro: lines 1, 4, 7, 11, 14 (Châtelet station)
  • RER: lines A and B (Châtelet-les Halles Station) and lines B and C (Saint Michel-Notre Dame Station)
  • Bus: Lines 21, 27, 38, 58, 85
Address

Pont au Change
75001 PARIS and 75004 PARIS

Coordinates Latitude Longitude
Sexagesimal (°, ', ") 48° 51′ 24″ N 2° 20′ 48″ E
Degré décimal (GPS) 48.85688 2.34675
Full description

The Pont-au-Change bridge connects the Ile-de-la-Cité from the Palais de Justice, the Conciergerie and the Tribunal de Commerce, to the right bank at the level of the Châtelet theater. It is located on the boundary between the 1st and 4th districts of Paris.

The Pont Saint-Michel, its twin brother, is located in its extension, on the other side of the Seine to the south. It connects the boulevard du Palais, which passes in front of the Palais de Justice, to the Place Saint-Michel (in the Latin Quarter, on the left bank).

The Pont-au-Change bridge, also called pont-aux-changes, is one of the thirty-seven bridges in Paris that span the Seine.

The Pont-au-Change bridge connects the Quai de la Mégisserie, the Quai de Grèves and the Place du Châtelet (right bank to the north) to the Quai de la Corse and the Quai de l'Horloge on the Ile-de-la-Cité (left bank to the south)

The tympanums of the bridge's piers bear the letter N of Napoleon in laurel wreaths sculpted by Cabat.

The Pont au Change, on the main branch of the Seine, is located downstream from the Pont Notre Dame and upstream from the Pont Neuf

The 9th century bridge

The first bridge built here in the 9th century under the reign of Charles the Bald was called the "Grand-Pont", as opposed to the "Petit-Pont" which crosses the small arm of the river on the south side of the Ile de la Cité. Today, it is the Pont Saint-Michel.

Like most bridges of the time, the Pont-au-Change also supported houses and businesses.

The floods of the Seine which do not only date from our century

The floods of 1196, 1206 and 1280 took away six arches. Rebuilt, it was swept away by the flood of December 1296. In 1280, the Seine flooded again. Gilles Corrozet writes: "In the year one thousand two hundred and eighty, the river Seine was so great in Paris, that it broke the main arch of the Grand Pont, part of the Petit Pont and enclosed the whole city, that one could not enter without a boat.

It is replaced by a new Grand-Pont which will become the "Pont-aux-changeurs". It is also accompanied by the construction of a second bridge a little downstream, the Pont aux Meuniers. In the 14th century, part of the mills and buildings built on this bridge belonged to the Chapter of Notre-Dame de Paris. This bridge was used to go to Notre-Dame during the solemn entries of the sovereigns. The bird farmers were then required to release 200 dozen birds as the procession passed by, in exchange for the permission they had been given to run their businesses on this bridge on Sundays and holidays.

The floods continue. The Pont-au-Change bridge lost two pillars during the flood of 1616. It was destroyed during the night of October 23 to 24, 1621 by the propagation of the fire of the nearby Marchand bridge.

The two bridges were replaced by a temporary bridge called Pont de Bois, before the Pont au Change was rebuilt with the money from jewelers and goldsmiths, from 1639 to 1647.

Origin of the Pont-au-Change bridge name

This bridge owes its name to the moneychangers and goldsmiths who established themselves on the bridge by order of Louis VII.

Its current name comes from the fact that the moneychangers, the "courtiers de change", held their bench there to change the currencies. They controlled and regulated the debts of the farming communities on behalf of the banks. At that time, the jewelers, goldsmiths and money changers had set up their stores so tightly that the Seine was not visible from the bridge.

The bridge of 1647 and the following floods

The bridge was rebuilt from 1639 to 1647 on the drawings of Androuet du Cerceau at the expense of its occupants: the masonry bridge had seven arches and was at the time the widest in the capital (38.6 m). The bridge was still severely damaged by the floods of 1651, 1658, 1668.

When the bridge was built, a monument to the glory of the young Louis XIV and his parents Louis XIII and Anne of Austria was erected in front of its end on the right bank. This monument was repaired in 1740 and destroyed in 1786-87. The houses that the bridge supported were also razed. The painter Hubert Robert illustrated their demolition in several paintings, two of which are in the Carnavalet Museum in Paris.

The Pont-au-Change during the July Revolution

During the "Trois Glorieuses", the surroundings of the Pont-au-Change were the scene of clashes between the insurgents and the troops.

The Pont-au-Change bridge of 1860: the current bridge

The current Pont-au-Change bridge was built from 1858 to 1860 under the reign of Napoleon III and thus bears his imperial monogram. During the works, a temporary footbridge was installed between the two banks. On the same model as this new bridge, the Pont Saint-Michel, rebuilt at the same time, crosses the Seine in alignment with the opposite left bank of the Ile de la Cité, towards the south of the Capital.

The Pont-au-Change bridge, 103 m long and 30 m wide, was built by the engineers Vaudrey and Lagalisserie, in 1858-60. The bridge consists of three arches of 31 m each (instead of 6 or 7 for the previous bridges) with basket arches. It is the extension of the Pont Saint Michel, its twin brother, towards the right bank.

The bookshops near the Pont-au-Change bridge

Located between the Conciergerie and the Louvre, there are also many bookshops on the quays near the bridge. Since 1578, books are exposed on the banks of the Seine. Merchants used to walk around with boxes of books hanging around their necks. We owe them the name of "col-porteurs". There were 120 of them in 1732 and many more after the Revolution. In 1822, the profession was recognized. In 1891, they were authorized to leave their merchandise on the spot with the appearance of the famous green boxes. Attached to the quays with padlocks, they are an integral part of the history of Paris.

 

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