A Little History – Pont Saint Michel


Like London, Paris is a city defined by its bridges. Building began on Pont Saint Michel in 1378. In those days the bridge was covered with townhouses for craftsmen including tanners and shoemakers. To get an idea of what the medieval Pont Saint Michel looked like, you’d have to go to Florence, Italy and walk along the ‘old bridge’or ponte vecchio which still has its little artisans’ shops.
Napoleon decided to raze the medieval townhouses back in 1807. At the same time, Quai Montabello was built on the left bank between Pont Saint Michel and Pont de la Tournelle.
Pont St. Michel connects the Left Bank to Ile de la Cite. If you are walking along Boulevard St. Michel toward Cite, you will reach the bridge.
Some of the folklore about residents of the Pont St. Michel bridge is included in the book “Guide de Paris Mysterieux” (Les Guides Noirs, Club Princesse Claude Tchou, Guide Princesse. Printed in 1976).
In particular, there is the story of the Neapolitan who fell in love with a shoemaker in 1593. He asked her to oblige him with three drops of her ‘mother’s milk’ which would surely cure him of an eye ailment. With these three drops of mother’s milk, he would work a spell that would not fail to make the shoemaker fall desperately in love with him. However he didn’t know what the shoemaker’s husband had suggested to his wife. Rather than waste her own milk, why not give the Neapolitan three drops of milk from their goat?
When the schemer received the three drops of goat’s milk, he hastened to cast his spell and waited impatiently for the shoemaker to meet him clandestinely. Instead, in a short time, the shoemaker’s husband’s goat became so agitated that it broke out of its pen and sought out the Neapolitan regiment. The goat pounced upon the surprised spellmaker and showered him with affection – literally. Sadly, the poor goat didn’t live to fulfill its bliss and the spellmaker left town. The story doesn’t say what happened to the shoemaker and her husband except that for three drops of goat’s milk they earned a good penny.
What is the moral of this story? “If the shoe fits, buy it. Pass up the extras.”

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