Voici la traduction en anglais d'un article publié en français le 15 avril 2009.
Here is the second post I've translated into English about the bridges of the 4th arrondissement.
The "Pont au Change" (which means Money exchange Bridge) marks the border between the 1st and the 4th arrondissement. The current bridge dates from the 19th century as we can guess thanks to the big "N's" which refer to the emperors of the Bonaparte family. It was inaugurated by Napoleon III on August 15th, 1860. So this bridge is much less ancient than Pont Marie, built 200 years earlier, about which I already published a post.
However, it seems that, even in the time of Lutetia (when Paris was a roman city), a bridge linked, in the same place, City Island to the Right Bank. For a long while, it was called the "Grand Pont" (the large bridge) in opposition to the "Petit Pont" (the small bridge) which crosses City Island's southern branch (much narrower than the northern one).
This bridge took the name "pont-aux-changeurs" (The money changers' bridge), from the 12th century on, by Louis VII's order who decided that the changers had to set up shop here to allow the exchanges between the many currencies in use in the Occident. They often sat on a little bench, called "banc" in French. That is the origin of the word "Banquier" that is to say banker in English. The word was also used in Italian. Those people were the leaders of trade at the time. "Rue des Lombards" is not far north from this bridge.
The bridge was rebuilt in the 17th century from 1639 to 1647. It was a 7 arched bridge which - as was common at the time- featured houses. The Pont Neuf (new Bridge) constructed a few decades before (in the 1st arrondissement now) was exceptionnal because it didn't have any. I found a postcard in my private colllection which shows a painting depicting the houses of pont-au-change :
The painter, Hubert Robert, a connoisseur of ruins, painted, in 1788, the destruction of the houses on this bridge (you can read a paper about it on the website of the city of Paris).
To pay tribute to the antiquity of this place, the 19th century architects, De la Galisserie and Vaudray, designed a stone bridge (whereas iron had become standard as can be seen with Pont d'Arcole and Pont Notre-Dame).
The current Pont au change is divided in three arches :
This post was first published in French on April 159th, 2010.