Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

Some of the best reminders of the scope, grandeur and brilliance of the Roman Empire are in France, and the Pont du Gard (Bridge of the Gard) is one of the best (and most intact) remaining examples of Roman architectural engineering anywhere in the world.

Built in the 1st century AD as part of the 50km long Nîmes aqueduct, the Pont du Gard is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges and is the best preserved after the Aqueduct of Segovia. In 1985 its obvious historical importance led its addition to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The bridge crosses the river Gardon near Remoulins in southern France.

Pont du Gard

Graffiti (including some in Latin) added to the Pont du Gard over many centuries.

This recognition of the aqueduct’s heritage is nothing new. A walk across the structure reveals hundreds of names and dates etched into the ancient stones, some going back many centuries – possibly the longest sustained graffiti effort in existence. (Not to be confused with the numbers or instructions etched by the builders into many stones at the time of construction.) The large proportion of dates from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries shows that the Pont du Gard was a very popular destination for those doing the “Grand Tour” of Europe.

The aqueduct was built to transport water from a spring at Uzes to the Roman colony of Nemausus, modern Nimes. Across the 56km journey, the water falls a mere 17m, a fall of only 1 in 30,000. Across the length of the Pont du Gard, the fall is only 2.5cm, a remarkable feat of engineering. The bridge has three levels of arches, standing a total of 48.8m, the same height as a twelve storey building. On each level the arches are progressively smaller (6 on the lower tier, 11 on the middle tier and 35 on the top tier) and narrower, creating a strong and sturdy structure.

Pont du Gard

The original Roman aquaduct crosses the river Gardon at the back, and the 18th century road can be seen at the front, at the same level as the lower tier of Roman arches.

The Pont du Gard was still carrying water up until at least the sixth century, when the lack of maintenance, which began falling off around the fourth century and stopped completely with the fall of the empire, finally clogged the aqueduct with silt.

But while the water supply dried up, the Pont du Gard was still important as a bridge across the Gardon river, and it is to this purpose that it owes its survival as in later years local bishops and lords began to maintain it in return for the right to charge tolls and levies to all who needed to cross it. So valuable did this become that in the eighteenth century a road bridge was constructed adjoining the aqueduct. Traffic across this newer part of the bridge was only stopped in 2000 when the nearby visitor centre was opened.

The main visitor centre on the north side of the bridge, while informative, is not particularly distinctive in the way of food and drink. There is another building with an eatery on the south side, but it was not open for eating when Teddy visited, despite a lunch menu being posted outside, and gave the impression of having somewhat unpredictable opening hours. For the discerning visitor, a much better option is to visit one of Teddy’s favourite French restaurants and pizzerias, La Ceriere, just a few minutes down the road at 59, av. G, Perret, Remoulins. A small, family-run business, the atmosphere is warm, inviting and authentic, the service friendly and helpful, and the food exquisite. Highly recommended.

Pont du Gard



One Response to Pont du Gard

  1. sav says:

    La quantité d’informations ici est étonnante, vous avez pratiquement écrit un livre sur le sujet.

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