The fountain was the work of the then chief city architect Richard-François Bonfin and was first installed here around 1787-1788. It was initially fed by the “Font de l’Or”, a spring captured on nearby Rue Carpenteyre and which had previously been channelled to a more rudimentary fountain a little further down the quayside near Porte de la Monnaie.
The Fontaine des Salinières went on to become a valuable source of drinking water for dockers and sailors, many of whom were no doubt tired and thirsty after putting much time and energy into loading and unloading tons of salt in that part of the quay, hence the name “Quai des Salinières”. Over the ensuing years, the fountain has become part of the landscape, and was listed as an historic monument on May 23rd 1925.
That’s the background, but how about the fountain itself? It is now set in the middle of a lowered octagonal platform, with vintage metal levers on each of the fountain’s four sides that you tug on to draw water from one of the heavily-eroded sculpted lion’s faces. The water then falls into shallow stone basins at ground level. (Or into your bottle, whichever comes first.)
The centrepiece is of course the tall column, which is reportedly hollow as it originally housed the fountain’s mechanics (although today the fountain is probably simply hooked up to the city’s water system). A wooden trapdoor which would have been used to access the mechanics inside, and which has been camouflaged to look like the rest of the stone sculpture, can still be seen on one side. Elsewhere, the city’s distinctive triple-crescent emblem can be spotted.
Finally, the top of the piece has been sculpted to look like an spectacular geyser-like explosion of water bursting upwards and outwards.
Comparing this 1960s postcard (the back of which refers to it as "la Vieille Fontaine") with a similar view today, it does seem as if the fountain is now a little further from the river than it used to be. What is undeniable is that the base of the fountain has rotated a number of degrees. And the fountain is far more accessible than it was at that time; there were no pedestrian crossings to cut a path through the multiple lanes of traffic, although steps down to an underpass can be seen in the middle distance!
- Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map:
- Fontaine des Salinières, Quai des Salinières, Bordeaux.