Ponts Couverts (Covered Bridges)
3 towers looking out onto the Petite France
The familiar shape of the mediaeval brick-built towers which shape one end of the Petite France goes back to the first stone wall built around the city in the 13th century.
17th century engravings show the somewhat basic nature of the defences at the time, consisting of 4 towers connected by bridges upon which were built wood-covered galleries.
The idea was to build a system to defend the western approaches to the city’s inner island, at the point where the river Ill split into 4 canals – the shipping canal and the Spitzmühle, Duntzenmühle and Zornmühle canals. To strengthen this weak point in the defences, the city’s engineers decided to build a series of bridges, defended by 4 towers. 3 of these have survived (Malzenturm was demolished in 1869), mainly as they were used as prisons, civil in the case of Heinrichsturm, military for the Hans von Altheimsturm and the tour des Français (French tower).
Originally wooden galleries, covered by a roof
The term “Covered Bridges” refers back to what the bridges were like in about 1300, when they were surmounted by wooden galleries, covered by a roof. “Summer”, an engraving made by etcher Wenceslas Hollar in about 1630, showed the bridge at that time, and similar bridges are still to be found in certain towns and cities in the Rhine valley.
The mediaeval bridges were replaced in 1784 by simple wooden walkways mounted on piles. The 3 bridges to be seen in the present-day city are clad in sandstone and were built in 1863–1865.
Spur-like structures protrude upstream from 2 of the bridges and these were used for placing cannons, which could fire directly along the surface of the river to repel any would-be invaders.
- Trams B or F - Faubourg National - Musée d’art moderne