The laying of the first stone for the Pont Neuf took place on 31 May 1578 and was hosted by a tearful Henry III. Having recently lost two of his favorite Mignons in a duel, the king had just returned from their funeral service while it was raining. As a joke, the Parisians subsequently dubbed the bridge "le pont des pleurs", meaning "the bridge of tears". In its own time, the Pont Neuf was unique, as it was the widest and most accessible bridge in Paris. It was also the first to be built in stone and, unlike other Parisian bridges at the time, had no houses along its spans.
The Pont Neuf soon become a trafficated bridge. In 1618, an equestrian statue of Henry IV was erected at the point where the bridge crosses the Île de la Cité. A plaque was also put up on the side of the Pont Neuf in commemoration of Jacques de Molay, the last publicly recognized Grand Master of the Templar Order, who was burned at the stake around the same area in 1314.
During the French Revolution, a band of thugs extorted citizens crossing the Pont Neuf and other bridges leading in and out of the Île de la Cité by demanding tolls. In response, the Council of the Parisian Brotherhood of Assassins had Arno Dorian eliminate the thugs' captains, ending the extortion.