Now reserved only for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, the Pont de Pierre is the first bridge of Bordeaux, spanning the Garonne and connecting the two banks of the city. Its imposing architecture includes 17 arches that required 12 years of work, built at the request of Napoleon. Classified a historical monument, the Pont de Pierre bridge is one of the symbols of the city and the ideal spot to capture the colours of Bordeaux.
A New Perspective on the Urban Landscape
The Pont de Pierre has profoundly changed the morphology of the Girondine capital, which until the completion of the bridge had operated like an island city, surrounded and constrained by the Garonne river.
This vaulted bridge made of stone and brick masonry is rather unusual for Bordeaux, a city where the light, honey-toned limestone reigns supreme. The bridge’s elegant and sober architecture is inspired by the city’s landmarks. The semicircular arches and the symmetry of its structure in particular – exterior as well as interior – are reminiscent of the Roman amphi-theatre Palais Gallien.
Laborious and Costly
The construction of the bridge was both laborious and costly. Beginning in 1810, it was soon interrupted by various political, historical and natural events, such as the flood of the Garonne in 1813, which carried away part of the construction site, followed by the fall of the Empire in 1814 which ruined the State. It wasn’t until 1818, under the impetus of the Bordeaux merchant P. Balguerie Stuttenberg and thanks to a grant of rights, that the Compagnie du Pont (The Bridge Company) was created, thus enabling the financing of the continuation and the finalization of the very first bridge in Bordeaux. The toll, with booths located on both sides of the bridge, was lifted in 1954.
Today, the Pont de Pierre attracts attention for other reasons: its foundations are fragile and it is now threatened by various pathologies; its 500,000 bricks sink 2 to 3 mm each year. This is why it is kept under surveillance by sensors placed in the interior galleries.
The Pont de pierre is one of the emblems of the urban landscape, unifying Bordeaux and Bastide. It has taken several names over the years: Pont Napoleon, Pont Louis XVIII, Pont de Bordeaux, Pont d’Aquitaine, then Pont de Garonne, and finally the present name of Pont de Pierre, the stone bridge.
Classified as a Historic Monument of France in 2002, it is part of the ‘Ville de Pierre’ complex of Bordeaux, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Its mysterious inner maze can only be visited during Heritage Days. But the brigde is much admired from the outside. Whatever the moods of the sky above or of the river flow, Pont de Pierre confers warmth and light over an impetuous and bubbling Garonne, all the while offering panoramic views of the two embracing shores.