Pont Alexandre III

Pont Alexandre III connects the physical spaces of the 1900 Exposition Universelle, but it also reveals the politics of the regime that hosted the exhibition.

Pont Alexandre III connects the Champs-Élysées, which is home to the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, to the Place des Invalides, another part of the 1900 Exposition Universelle. When it was constructed for the Exposition, the Republic government instructed the architects to make the bridge low enough so that the buildings in the Invalides, including Napoleon's tomb, could still be viewed. Again, the Expositions designs and structures were closely connected to the politics and the regime that was in power. In another political move, the bridge's namesake is Tsar Alexander III of Russia ("Pont Alexandre III, Paris"). This was to celebrate a recent treaty between the two countries ("Pont Alexandre III, Paris"). Alexander's heir, the future Tsar Nicholas II, set the first stone of the bridge in 1896 and attended the opening ceremony of the Exposition four years later (Pont Alexandre III, Paris"). It also marked the end of diplomatic isolation for the Republic ("Pont Alexandre III, Paris"). The statues on either end of the bridge also symbolize the new Franco-Russian friendship. Symbolism for both France and Russia are included in the ornate carvings, including the Parisian coat of arms and the Russian coat of arms ("Pont Alexandre III, Paris"). The very structure of Pont Alexandre III shows how the French government used the 1900 Exposition to further the regime's political goals and showcase national prestige.
The bridge's scale and grandeur makes seeing it in person an almost surreal experience. Approaching the bridge from the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, the statues atop the pillars have an otherworldly golden shine. The Russian and French detailing is intricately carved into these pillars, but the historical significance of these designs seems to be lost on the tourists wandering through. A sorbet stand underneath the right pillar draws more of the visitors' attention than the pillar itself. A lion guards the other side of the pillar, where a smaller balcony offers views of the bridge and the Eiffel Tower beyond. This view connects the 1889 and 1900 Exposition Universelles by including these structures in the same experience. Les Invalides is framed by the pillars of Pont Alexandre III as one walks down the bridge itself. Turning back towards the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, the latter of which is harder to see due to the towering topiary trees in front of it, offers another view of the 1900 Exposition structures. The visitors of the exposition must have been awed by the scale and opulence of the Palais pair, Les Invalides, and the bridge connecting them all, Pont Alexandre III.