Built of Neckar Valley sandstone by Prince-Elector Karl Theodor in the 18th century, the famous Old Bridge (Alte Brücke) is one of the last large examples of classical stone bridge building. It links the old town to the eastern edge of the district of Neuenheim. The precursors of today’s Old Bridge were all made of wood. After repeated destruction by wars and flooding, Karl Theodor ordered the construction of a stone bridge across the river (1786-1788). On the city side is the medieval Bridge Gate, part of the former city wall.
West of the Bridge Gate, a bronze monkey on the Old Bridge holds up a mirror to passers-by. The bronze sculpture by Professor Gernot Rumpf was installed here in 1979, but a monkey graced Heidelberg’s landmark bridge as far back as the 15th century. Old sketches of the city depict a monkey next to the tower on the north end of the Old Bridge. However, this monkey disappeared during the Palatinate War of Succession in 1689/93.
According to legend, the curious statue was meant to encourage Heidelberg citizens to look over their shoulder as they crossed the bridge and remind them that no matter which side of the bridge they came from, they were no better than their counterparts.
The Old Bridge features two groups of sculptures by Konrad Linck. One commemorates Prince-Elector Karl Theodor, who had the bridge built. The other is dedicated to the Roman goddess Minerva (in Greek, Pallas Athene). The monument to the Prince-Elector is closer to the southern banks of the river Neckar. The figures arranged on the two-level base around the monument symbolise the most important rivers of the states governed by Karl Theodor: The Rhine, Mosel, Danube and Isar. The Prince-Elector was a passionate supporter of the arts and sciences, which is why the other monument is dedicated to the goddess of wisdom.