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|Official name||Pont d'Iéna|
|Maintained by||civil service|
|Next upstream||Passerelle Debilly|
|Next downstream||Pont de Bir-Hakeim|
|Total length||155 m (508 ft)|
|Width||35 m (115 ft)|
In 1807, Napoleon I ordered, by an imperial decree issued in Warsaw, the construction of a bridge overlooking the Military School, and named the bridge after his victory in 1806 at the Battle of Jena, disregarding names considered previously: pont du Champ-de-Mars and pont de l'École militaire.
Prussian General Blücher wanted to destroy the bridge before the Battle of Paris in 1814, as Blücher had been present for the Prussians' humiliating defeat at Jena, where approximately 28,000 Prussians were killed to France's 2,480, after which Prussia was occupied by France. The Prefect of Paris tried everything to change the mind of Blücher – without success – and finally went to the wily diplomat Talleyrand, asking him whether he could write a letter to the General asking him not to destroy the bridge. Talleyrand instead approached Tsar Alexander, who was staying with him in Paris. The Tsar was asked to grant to the people of Paris the favour of personally dedicating the bridge under a new name (Pont de l'École militaire). The Tsar accepted, and Blücher could not then destroy a bridge dedicated by an Ally, and renamed.
Later, after the Waterloo Campaign in 1815, the allied armies of Prussia and Great Britain occupied Paris, and the Prussians, again, attempted to destroy the bridge on 9 July 1815. According to Lady Frances Shelley, the Duke of Wellington, who believed that destroying a useful structure such as a bridge, for purely symbolic reasons, was ridiculous, prevented the demolition by posting an English soldier on the bridge, with strict orders not to leave his post. Wellington went in a fury when he discovered that the Prussians continued to place gunpowder under the bridge anyway, even in the presence of English sentries. Fortunately, the Prussian soldiers were not very experienced demolition workers. Wellington snorted afterwards: "The Prussians did not know how to handle gunpowder. We, having blown up so many bridges in Spain, would have finished the job in five minutes". Instead, the Prussians blew a hole in one of the pillars, but the blast was directed outwards and not inwards, which wounded some of the Prussian soldiers and threw one into the Seine. The demolition work continued until the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III arrived in Paris. He immediately agreed with Wellington that the demolition should be stopped at once, but even that did not deter Blücher who told his king, "We need to do this to defend Prussian honour and avenge the desecration of the tomb of Friedrich II by Napoleon's armies." It was not until Czar Alexander intervened on the evening of 10 July 1815 that Blücher finally backed down. The Napoleonic eagles on the sides of the bridge were not removed and the city council repaired the superficial damage on the bridge quickly at a cost of 12.000 Francs. After the incident, the resentful Prussian general refused to stay in the city and moved his headquarters to Saint-Cloud. There, "poor old Blücher" (in the words of Wellington) fell off his horse when he tried to impress a couple of ladies with equitation prowess and lost his mind.
Talleyrand later had the bridge reverted to its original name under Louis-Philippe.
The structure was designed with five arches, each with an arc length of 28 m, and four intermediate piers. The initial construction, the cost of which was enormous at the time, was fully financed by the State and spanned six years from 1808 to 1814.
The tympana along the sides of the bridge had been originally decorated with imperial eagles conceptualized by François-Frédéric Lemot and sculpted by Jean-François Mouret. The eagles were replaced with the royal letter "L" soon after the fall of the First Empire in 1815 but in 1852, when Napoléon III ascended the throne of the Second Empire, new imperial eagles, this time by the chisel of Antoine-Louis Barye, replaced the royal "L".
Put in place in 1853, on the two ends of the bridge, are four sculptures sitting on top of four corresponding pylons: a Gallic warrior by Antoine-Augustin Préault and a Roman warrior by Louis-Joseph Daumas by the Right Bank; an Arab warrior by Jean-Jacques Feuchère and a Greek warrior by François-Théodore Devaulx by the Left Bank.
Towards the second half of the 19th century, the inadequacy of the bridge's carrying capacity started to become a pronounced problem. With the increasing traffic resulting from the expansion of the districts of Trocadéro, Auteuil and Passy, the necessity to enlarge the structure (the width of which was no more than 14 m, including the pavements) in a durable fashion grew as time went on.
Not until 1937, with the prospect of the upcoming World Fair drawing closer, did the French government decide to execute the project, which was all the more necessary as the structure was starting to show sure signs of deterioration. As well as the widening operation, reduced to just 35 meters from the planned 40 meters, the project also transformed the bridge with two additional concrete elements placed at either end, joining to the existing bridge with metal girders. Stone facings were used to protect the concrete tympana, the imperial eagles put back in place and the four statues repositioned accordingly during the bridge expansion.
This bridge has been part of the supplementary registry of historic monuments since 1975.
The steps leading off the bridge are popularly known among film fans as the "Renault stairs", as they featured in a scene in A View to a Kill where James Bond (played by Roger Moore) drove a hijacked Renault 11 taxi down the steps in pursuit of an assassin later revealed to be May Day (Grace Jones).
|Located near the Métro station: Iéna.|
- Beatrice de Graaf, Tegen de terreur. Hoe Europa veilig werd na Napoleon. Amsterdam, Prometeus (2018), 127–130 ISBN 9789035144583
- "Renault Chase Stairs (Pont d'léna Stairs) | James Bond Locations". Jamesbondmm.co.uk. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
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