The Pont de Pierre is the oldest bridge in Bordeaux, in New Aquitaine. Its construction dates from the beginning of the 19th century, which is very late considering the origins of the city. Indeed, for nearly 2000 years the city developed on the Left Bank without attempting to cross the river. The Garonne is wide and turbulent, probably frightening the Bordelais who were slow to build a bridge.
The Stone Bridge in Bordeaux has a rich and fascinating history. Commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1810, it was built to solve the problem of crossing the Garonne River, which was previously done by boats which was dangerous and inconvenient.
The construction of the Pont de Pierre was interrupted in 1814 for two reasons, the first being a storm that hit the Gironde and caused great damage to the construction site. The second reason was the abdication of Napoleon, which put a stop to the financing of the project.
In 1818, a company was created to raise funds and finish the construction of the bridge. The work was completed in 1821 and the Pont de Pierre was inaugurated on April 30, 1822 under the reign of Louis XVIII, three months after the death of Napoleon.
The Pont de Pierre opened to traffic in 1822, allowing the development of the right bank of Bordeaux. At the beginning of its history, the Pont de Pierre had a toll, pedestrians had to pay a bill of 5 cents, riders accompanied by their horse had to spend 35 cents. The two buildings of the octroi at the entrance of the bridge will be razed only in 1954, during works of widening of the bridge.
The Bordeaux Stone Bridge, built in the 19th century by order of Napoleon Bonaparte, has a unique architecture characterized by 17 arches. The number is not chosen at random since, according to the legend, it corresponds to the number of letters in the name “Napoleon Bonaparte”.
Each pillar bears the emblem of the city and a medallion in honor of Napoleon. The brick pillars are decorated with a white medallion in honor of Napoleon. Indeed, we can see 3 crescents which are interlaced, symbol of the coat of arms of the city. We can find the emblems of Bordeaux represented by animals and symbols such as the lion, the salamander and the crane. The medallions are decorated with a capital N in honor of Napoleon and are surrounded by floral motifs.
The bridge is made of stone and brick, it is 486 meters long and 19 meters wide. The galleries of the bridge house measuring devices to monitor its structure. The architecture of the bridge is closely related to the difficulties encountered during its construction, including the very strong current at the location of the Garonne. During its construction, the architects realized a bridge with a hollow structure and galleries for its maintenance and the passage of numerous networks.
In 2022, the Pont de Pierre was listed as a historical monument. It is a real historical link between the right and left banks of the Bordeaux metropolis.
On several occasions, the roadway of the Pont de Pierre was widened to accommodate the growing traffic of the city of Bordeaux. In 1924, its width was increased from 15 to 20 meters. This work allowed for the construction of 4 lanes of traffic, sidewalks and bicycle paths. The more regular traffic on the bridge weakens it. In 2018, the city hall of Bordeaux, in New Aquitaine, decided to close the Pont de Pierre to traffic. Only pedestrians, bicycles and public transport (bus, streetcar…) can now cross it.
In 2011, the bridge was restored and streetlights were installed to give it back its original appearance. They also allowed to bring light to the bridge which magnifies it and gives it its characteristic charm.
Since 2021, the Stone Bridge undergoes new waves of renovation such as the consolidation of the piles, the waterproofing of the building. This phase of work includes the cleaning and replacement of the stones and bricks of the bridge, which is deteriorating over time. A second phase of work began with preliminary studies and investigations, followed by the consolidation of the foundations with a sonic drilling method to limit vibrations that could damage the structure of the Stone Bridge. The final phase of the Stone Bridge began in early 2023, with the complete restoration of the Stone Bridge to its former glory and its place as an art object.
t is possible to visit the surroundings of the Pont de Pierre in Bordeaux, especially the abutment, which is the pillar that rests on the bank. However, it is not possible to visit the bridge deck itself. Guided tours are also offered by the Bordeaux metropolis to discover the history and construction of the bridge, as well as to learn more about the symbols inscribed on the arches of the bridge.
If you want to know more about the Pont de Pierre, we advise you to climb aboard our visitour bus to visit the city of Bordeaux perched 4 meters high. Our sightseeing tours will allow you to know Bordeaux from yesterday to today. You can book your seats now via our ticketing service for your next tour on the banks of the Garonne. By booking tickets for a sightseeing tour of Bordeaux in one of our buses, you will take a trip through the history of Bordeaux. The audio-guided tour will allow you to discover the Cité du Vin, the Grand Théâtre, the Porte Cailhau, the water mirror. Take the time to visit the banks of the Garonne, on foot, by bike or in our bus.
Bordeaux is rich in history and heritage with its 350 UNESCO listed buildings. Each one more unusual than the next, don’t miss out on discovering them.
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