Pont du Gard Beautiful holiday photos at the Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard Beautiful holiday photos at the Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard Beautiful holiday photos at the Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard Beautiful holiday photos at the Pont du Gard

Beautiful holiday photos at the Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard is not an inanimate monument; it’s alive.
With its dances, concerts, tours, exhibitions and swimming it always draws large crowds that never tire of photographing this magnificent stone sentinel.

We are on the Pont du Gard’s right bank, it’s 9am and in front of the aqueduct a group of Japanese teenagers throw their arms up, slap each other on the back and congratulate each other. One of them gets up onto the little wall and tries to photograph the bridge with his iPhone. He comes back down again, showing the phone screen to his colleagues. Clearly, there is a problem. They are not happy. The youngest amongst them gets his Samsung tablet out of his backpack, climbs the wall with the touchpad in his hands and photographs the bridge again. He comes back down again and shows the result to his friends to cries of joy: the bridge has finally found a screen it fits into!

Oh yes - everyone wants to photograph the Pont du Gard, and from every viewpoint, of which there is certainly no shortage. There are the ochre arches, of course; the ‘family under the bridge’ photo; the canoes on the clear waters of the River Gardon; the cute little straw huts on the beaches, perfect for sunbathing; the olive trees; or even the little stone farmers’ huts. And don’t forget to visit the reconstruction of the Roman quarry in the Museum.

And then there are the people who dance the tango at night and listen to disco music the next day, eating at a restaurant under the plane trees. No, the Pont du Gard is certainly not a static monument. It’s fun for children, both at the water’s edge and also in the specially-built children’s play area. Here at the bridge, the visitors keep on coming. The Japanese have signed up for a visit to the top of the aqueduct; another viewpoint for beautiful holiday photos. Later on, grouped under the cooling water-mist machine on the terrace at the entrance to the site, they email photos of the bridge to a friend who has stayed behind in Japan before returning to their car, to head towards Nîmes railway station and then Paris. They will miss another much-admired attraction; at dusk the monument is bathed in light - a wonderfully sublime vision!

Pont du Gard, A stone giant!

The highest Roman bridge in the world

In the 1st century AD, ‘Nemausus’ was in full swing. The city needed a lot of water for the thermal baths, pools, fountains, running water for the houses as well as for its prestige. So ancient Nîmes decided, like Rome, to build an aqueduct to convey water from the source of the Eure near Uzès to Nîmes Castellum. Thus was born the Pont du Gard.

Between the blue of the sky and the green of the garrigue, it suddenly reveals itself to the visitor’s eyes. Shining with the ochre colour of its stones which reflect in the sun, the building evokes deep admiration. The Pont du Gard, which rises to almost 49 meters, is the work of only one man – the brilliant Roman builder who built their highest bridge there.

You have to stop and look at this monument from a distance in order to take it all in. With two green gables which connect its 275m length and well anchored at its base in the raw rock of the River Gardon, the bridge is constructed of three layers of arches, perfectly aligned on the first two levels. Thanks to this architecture, the monument does not hide the landscape, it allows you to see right through it. If you look closely enough you notice that the arches are of unequal sizes, the widest at 24.5m spans the River Gardon which usually flows calmly enough, but can become turbulent during heavy rain.

Looting

Composed of six arches more than 21 meters high, the lower level supports the eleven arches of the second level, and above all of this lies a row of arches narrower and lower than the others. They support the tile-covered channel through which the water to flowed. Of the original 47, there are only 35 left today; the others were probably destroyed around the 12th century when looting was carried out to take stone that was used to build other constructions. This destruction accelerated the decline of a monumental work which supplied water to the city of Nîmes for five centuries.

The route of the aqueduct is meandering; it evolved over 50 km in a landscape of mountains and valleys that demanded heavy excavation and filling work. An amazing feat, given that the difference in height of the land over the whole route does not exceed 12.6 meters, but the Romans were masters in the art of solving any technical problems they came up against. The aqueduct therefore created was for the most part buried, but seventeen open-air sections contributed to the passage of the water.

A thousand workers

Let’s follow the visitor along his path and go on a more intimate exploration of this impressive work. But let’s advise him to advance slowly, to linger a little and observe. He should not forget to raise his head to discover the many signs, drawings and inscriptions left by the co-workers who carved and assembled these huge blocks of stones. Many workers were required to build such a monument, nearly a thousand working on the extraction, transport and trimming of the stones from the Estel quarry, located a few hundred meters from the construction site.

It is believed to have taken no more than five years to complete the building but afterwards, adjustments and leak repairs continued for almost ten years. The gigantic work would not see a duration of use equal to its long installation.

In the 4th century, the lack of maintenance of the conduit in which the water circulated resulted in the appearance of lime scale which over time ended up greatly damaging the construction. From the 6th century, the aqueduct was no more than an abandoned monument.

A new youth

The Middle Ages would give it a new lease of life by providing it with a new function; it became a passageway, allowing the people of Uzès who attend the fair at Beaucaire, to cross the River Gardon.

In order to enable the easier passage of people, animals and carts, the columns of the arches on the second level were cut down and access ramps carved into each side.

Today, you can easily access this level and it is amazing to see how wide the passageway is, but what the visitor wouldn’t know is that the Roman side wasn’t used at all – only the bridge that was added afterwards. Indeed, at the end of the 17th century, after so many decades spent falling into ruin, work was finally carried out to preserve the monument. Thus, in 1743 the engineer Henry Pitot began the construction of the road bridge attached to the monument. The real restoration of the bridge, including the filling in of the indentations made by the columns, would be completed in two stages between 1843 and 1858.

In 1985 the Pont du Gard is registered as a world heritage of humanity site by UNESCO and in 2004 it received the Grand Site de France distinction. Since 2000, thanks to a development project, the Pont du Gard has found a new lease of life.

Meet

Sonia Sabatier , Cultural mediator and museum’s manager The sound of water flowing, semi-darkness; a visit to the museum is educational, fun and extremely interesting

"The Pont du Gard is just a link. In this museum we wanted to reconstruct the viaduct over its 50 kilometres and explain all about the bridge", explains Sonia Sabatier, cultural mediator and the museum’s manager.

Nîmes was well-positioned for its rich Roman noblemen during this era of hot baths. "Water is a conductor; it’s the reason why the sound of running water accompanies the visitor". And this unexpected semi-darkness? "It was dark in the pipes that carried the water,” explains Sonia Sabatier, “we wanted to recreate this atmosphere.”

During the visit, which lasts about an hour, there are some spectacular sights. With the full-scale reconstruction of a quarry and two arches of the top level of the bridge, you could almost be there for real!

"What amazes me,” insists the Manager of the Museum,” are the surprising technical skills and the remarkable level of organisation implemented by the Gallo-Romans in order to complete this project. This could be because they had a great knowledge of working with stone and of the topography of the land."

Using models, drawings and through the reconstruction of the local environment; this epic tale of the viaduct in the museum covers over 2500 m2. It’s a fun and educational visit. An explanation as to why the bridge is still there is also offered. "Simply because it was given a new lease of life”, summarises Sonia Sabatier, “Its reincarnation as a road bridge to cross the river saved it.”

Open the map Close map Afficher / masquer la carte