As much as Strasbourg relied on the waters of the river Ill to bring it trade, feed its tanneries and fuel its mills, the river could bring something else too: enemies. So while Petite France pushed out into the waters, the canals that threaded their way through and around the city were bridged, and more importantly blocked, by the Pont Couverts.
The modern bridges are a recent construction - dating from the 19th century. Previously they had been more solid affairs - built to withstand attacks and with wooden canopies to offer protection as much from rain as a hail of arrows. The four guard towers still remain, three sitting dramatically in front of Petite France, and another tucked away to the north protecting a fifth bridge.
We saw the Les Ponts Couverts [covered Bridges] in the Petit France area of Strasbourg, first by Boat, then later on when we walked there. These Covered Bridges were originally used as 'covered Galleries,' open on the city side, but closed by a wooden wall with only arrow slits on the outside. In 1784, wooden walkways on stilts replaced the covered galleries. Today, there are sandstone bridges which were built between 1863 -65.
A ponte couvert is simply a covered bridge. While in Strasbourg, the part of Petite France near the Vauban Barrage is called Les Ponte Couverts, there is no covered bridge there. In the middle ages, a covered bridge made of wood was erected here, thus the name. In the 1600s after Louis XIV annexed the city, used the bridge to protect the city and provide a crossing point into the Alsace region. However, since that time, the covers have come off. The bridge still exists and is a beautiful place to walk around.
The Ponte Couverts have four stone towers remaining from this bridge that spans across the River L’Ill and the west entrance to Petite France. If you have the opportunity to walk around to the Vauban barrage side of the water and look back at the Ponte Couverts, you will be able to see the holes at water level where guns were housed when the bridge was used to defend and protect the city.
At the time of my visit, the Vauban Barrage, a dam that could be closed off to protect the city from attack or flooding, was closed and wrapped in tarps and scaffolding. It sits on the opposite side of the water from the Ponte Couverts and added another layer of protection for the city.
The three watch towers at the end of La Petite France were rebuilt in the 19C to maintain the watch tower appearance and the neighborhood remains as it was along the district but without the tanning works. Some locks remain as well as several eateries.
During the Middle Ages, Strasbourg was a walled town. In the 17th century, under King Louis XIV, the military leader and engineer Marshal Vauban constructed new fortifications all around the city. These were used not only for defense but as prisons. Today, one can tour these old forts, with their four towers. The rest of the city's defenses are gone. "Pont Couverts" means covered bridges, and refers to the fortified bridge in the center.
The Ponts Couverts (covered Bridges) were built from 1230 to 1250 on four arms of the Ill to protect the city. In the beginning, they were wooden bridges with a roof, protected by four square stone towers. Along the centuries, they were modified and built in stone. Finally, when the progresses of artillery made them useless as a protection of the city, the roofs were removed but the name remained.
Also in the Petite France district are the Covered Bridges, which retained their name in spite of the disappearance of their roofing in the 18th century. They are dominated by four towers of the 14th century, remains of the former battlements.
The Pont Couverts guard the river near the Petite France area. They are a great place to take a picture with the catheral showing in the background. There is also parking not too far from here, so you can also start your visit from this end of town and walk back to the cathedral.
The Ponts Couverts (covered bridges) sit at the end of Petite France, stretching across three of the channels of the river Ill which passes through. Around these stand four large watchtowers, Vauban's Fortress, which where originally part of the city walls.
The area is really beatiful, although it was a little cold when we visited, I imagine it must be devine in the summer to set up a small picnik on one of the bridge walls, and crack open a bottle of bubbly!
The Pont-Couverts are towers and footbridges situated at the end of 'Petite France'. They are from the 13th century and these ancient fortified remains owe their name to the series of roofed, wooden footbridges.
The Ponts Couvertes (The Covered Bridges).
These bridges were once covered in the style of the bridges at Lucerne, Switzerland. But the roofs burned down long time ago (1784). Over the bridges stand three massive towers, remaining from the old city walls.
The old city actually is on island. It is surrounded by sleeves of the river, and also channels. One of places of interest, that we advise to visit, is " Covered bridges ".
Close to La Petite France, there is a beautiful view of the city and the Cathedral in the background. There is a Music & Light show (at least in summer).