Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pont du Gard: A Roman Marvel (France)

The first sight of Pont du Gard is striking. Set in a picturesque valley and with its towering three arched structure reflected into the peaceful river below, it is extraordinary to realise that the bridge was built around the time of Christ as part of a water supply system to the Roman capital of the area, Nîmes (which is well worth a visit with its Roman amphitheatre, Roman house and ancient gates). The huge limestone blocks (many over a tonne) are held together without mortar – a remarkable Pyramid-like construction effort.

Its three layer grand arch stands nearly 50 metres tall (the highest Roman aqueduct in the world) and delivered 200 million litres of water per day from the springs in Uzès to the good folks of Nîmes (the exit point still exists today). The engineering for the times is exceptional, the waterway dropping just seventeen metres over the distance of 50 kilometres (the water took over a day to make its full journey, much of it via underground trenches) and the bridge being responsible for a drop of just one inch over its span of half a kilometre.

Somewhat fortunately, the bridge survived the middle ages, being a tollway granted to the church in exchange for maintaining the structure.

Walks in the area (as well as across the bridge) offer a variety of views of the bridge and surrounding area with information signs along the paths highlighting the rich history of the bridge. Sadly the bridge is ridiculously popular in summer and has been somewhat commercialised with mediocre extras such as a museum, film and info centre.

Being so shallow, the waters of the Gard River are warm, many visitors escaping the heat of southern France by swimming, canoeing or liloing on the gently flowing stream.

Go early in the day to avoid the crowds and the heat, the Pont du Gard being only a short 25 kilometres from Avignon. It makes for a worthwhile diversion to marvel at the remarkable scientific and engineering skills of the Romans, protected with its entry on the World Heritage List).

Things To Do on raveable


Kristina said...

The photos are magnificent! Century aged and more.... these structures stand the test of time... will modern structures be able to stand still a century from now?

Mark H said...

@kristina: The Roman structures around the world are remarkable for their survival - battles, climate, erosion etc have not taken away these remarkable buildings.

Sherry Ott said...

I've always wanted to photograph this amazing site!

Related Posts with Thumbnails