Pont Neuf, which translates into English as "New Bridge" is the oldest bridge in Paris. The structure has never been altered, the wooden posts supporting the foundations are still the originals. A major restoration of Pont Neuf was started in 1994 and completed in 2007, the same year as its 400th anniversary.
The Pont Neuf actually consists of two separate spans, one on each side of the small island in the river known as the Ile de la Cite, the two spans of the bridge have a total of 12 arches, the side adjoining the right bank has seven arches, and the other connecting Ile de la Cite to the left bank consists of a further 5 arches.
During the mid 16th century, the bridges that crossed the Seine were constantly overcrowded, and in a bad state of repair,, King Henry III decided in 1578 to construct a new bridge. It was not completed until 1607 when it was officially opened by King Henry IV, who gave it its name, Pont Neuf. After the his death, an equestrian statue of the King was erected on the centre of the bridge, on the square du Vert-Galant. The bronze statue was melted down during the French Revolution, but in 1818 was replaced by an exact replica.
The bridge, which is over 20 meters wide, has been decorated with over 380 individually sculpted carved masks that line the cornices along the length of the structure.
Pont Neuf was the first bridge in Paris to not have houses built on it. It was also the first bridge to include pavements in its construction, this made it very popular with Parisians, and the bridge soon became well known as a recognised meeting place.