Joseph-Victor Tritschler, Unrealized project of the bridge in Brest (Penfeld), 1843, Brest municipal archives.

As the historical cradle of Brest, the Penfeld River is intimately linked to the city’s destiny. The merchant and military ports developed along its banks. However, for a long time the only means of crossing between the two banks was by ferry and its crossings were as irregular as they were dangerous.

It was only in 1861, under the Second Empire, that the Imperial Bridge was finally inaugurated after nearly 30 years of procrastination and controversy between local and national authorities. Several spontaneous proposals had preceded it, including that of Joseph-Victor Tritschler (1815-1879).

In 1843, this entrepreneur and town councillor, who was not without artistic talent, proposed a project for a suspension bridge with a large arch. The bridge would have had a movable deck and would have opened in the middle to allow the naval vessels with the highest masts to pass. Its monumental arch would have risen 55 metres above the highest tides and its 400 steps would have allowed pedestrians to continue crossing despite the passage of ships.

Although retained by the municipal council of the city of Brest in 1852, Tritschler’s spectacular project was finally discarded in favour of the swing bridge presented by Nicolas Cadiat and Alphonse Oudry, respectively architect and engineer.

Christine Berthou-Ballot