Saturday, March 7, 2020

Go visit the Pont du Gard if for no other reason, this "masterpiece" has been standing for 2000 years!

Our favorite Roman ruin in the South of France is the Pont du Gard, the aqueduct bridge that crosses the Gardon River about 60 km (37 miles) from our house in Sablet, between the towns of Remoulins and Uzès.

The Pont du Gard is part of a 50 km (31 mile) aqueduct constructed by the Romans in the middle of the 1st century to bring fresh water from the Eure spring near Uzès, to the Roman city of Nîmes where it supplied running water to fountains, baths and private homes around the city.

The Pont du Gard has three tiers of arches; It is 274 meters (899 ft) in length and stands at a height of 48.8 m (160 ft). Its width varies from 9 m (30 ft) at the bottom to 3 m (9.8 ft) at the top. The three levels of arches are recessed, with the main piers in line one above another.

As you walk out to the Pont du Gard, look for the ancient olive trees on the Left Bank along the path from the Visitor Center. The plaque by one of the trees says it was born in 908 and lived in Spain till 1985 when the Counsel General of the Gard adopted the tree and planted it here in 1988.

1,000 year old Olive tree near the Pont du Gard

Make sure you check out the construction of the bridge, take in the view up or down the river valley, wander across to the far side, explore down along the river and climb up the steps to the upper trail where you have great views of the bridge and surrounding area.

Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard was constructed largely without the use of mortar or clamps. Most of the stones were extracted from the Estel quarry located approximately 700 meters (2,300 ft) downstream, on the banks of the Gardon River. The stones were cut to fit perfectly together by friction and gravity, eliminating the need for mortar.

The builders left inscriptions on the stonework conveying various messages and instructions. Many blocks were numbered and inscribed with the required locations, such as fronte dextra or fronte sinistra (front right or front left), to guide the builders

Underside of Pont du Gard archway with Roman Numeral placement markings

Shirley at Pont du Gard

The straight-line distance from the spring near Uzès to the town of Nîmes is only about 20 km (12 mi), but the mostly underground aqueduct was built along a winding route measuring around 50 km (31 mi) to circumvent the southernmost foothills of the Massif Central, known as the Garrigues de Nîmes. This was the only practical way to transport water from the spring to the town.

Pont du Gard from right bank of Gardon River

The Romans needed a way to get the water that would flow through the aqueduct across the Gardon River so they built the Pont du Gard with a water channel to complete the aqueduct and get water to its destination in Nîmes.

A view of the Pont du Gard from the left bank of the Gardon River

It is estimated that the aqueduct supplied Nîmes with around 40,000 cubic meters (8,800,000 imp gal) of water a day that took nearly 27 hours to flow from the spring to the town.

A view of the water channel at the top of the Pont du Gard from the left bank of the Gardon River

As I noted earlier, the Pont du Gard was built to carry water from the aqueduct across the Gardon River. Several of the River's tributaries are also called Gardon. The Gardon River rises in the Cévennes mountain range and flows for 133 km into the Rhône River at Beaucaire, from where it flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

View of the Gardon River towards Uzès from Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France and is open all year round, though the restaurant and some indoor areas close for part of the winter. You can stay there after dark (exact closing times vary depending on the season), when the bridge is illuminated in summer.

As I told you here, a fun way to view the Pont du Gard is from a canoe or kayak on the Gardon River on a hot summer day. There are several companies around Collias that will rent canoes and provide transportation to your point of departure and from your point of arrival.

The Pont du Gard was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites in 1985. The description on the list states: "The Roman architects and hydraulic engineers who designed this bridge created a technical as well as an artistic masterpiece."

Shirley and friends in front of Pont du Gard

When we go, we park in the lot on the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) which is the main entry and parking lot. The main visitor center is on this side, where you walk through to access the Pont du Gard. There is a small charge for parking and they have recently instituted a fee for visiting the Pont du Gard.

The visitors' center is where the ticket machines and information center are located. Here too are restrooms, snack bar, souvenir shops, book store and audio-guides for your visit (available in several languages).

If you have comments or questions about the Pont du Gard, or elsewhere in Provence, please leave your comments below or send me an email at my address below.

If you are thinking about a trip to the South of France including spending time in Provence, we invite you to visit our website. Our house is available for rent by the week or more. We still have some weeks open in April, June, and August. You can reach us for further information by sending an email to chcmichel@aol.com.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing so much helpful information about this stunning "must-see" monument to human engineering. We are looking forward to visiting sometime after we complete our move to Bargemon, a small village about 2 1/2 hours southwest of Sablet. Our home in Maine is now under contract and we are hoping to be settling in sometime in June. I'll continue to follow your blog and appreciate all your helpful suggestions and insights!

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  2. Hello Nancy. Thank you so much for your kind feedback. I appreciate your ongoing interest in my blog. How exciting that you will be moving to Bargemon. Will you be living there full time? Any story behind why you are going to be living there? I always enjoy the back stories. Please keep in touch.

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