The Pont du Gard, located near Nîmes is an impressive aquedutc, the most visited ancient monument in France.
It was used until the 6th century
The most visited ancient monument in France, an aqueduct listed by Unesco, the Pont du Gard remains one of the great masterpieces of humanity. Wonder of Antiquity, technical prowess, it is also a magical site, which has become wild again since its redevelopment. 48 meters high, it has a triple row of superimposed arcades: 6 arches on the lower level, 11 on the second and 35 on the third. Its length reaches 273 meters in the upper part (originally 360 with 12 additional arches). It was used until the 6th century, then became a toll in the Middle Ages, and finally a road bridge from the 18th to the 20th century. The Grand Site operation initiated in 2000 restored its original setting, without car traffic and without the constructions that had proliferated around it. In the first century of our era, Nîmes, a prosperous colony, saw its population approach 20,000 inhabitants.
The most spectacular bridge
At the foot of Mount Cavalier, the fountain of Nemausus is no longer enough to supply drinking water for the daily needs of the city, but also the thermal baths, fountains and numerous gardens. It was decided to build an aqueduct to carry water from the Eure spring in Uzès to the Nîmes site: 50km of pipes to be drilled and buried underground. On the route of the work, the Gardon was a severe obstacle, solved by the construction of the Pont du Gard. A utilitarian work, the Pont du Gard was also a work of prestige, supposed to mark the superiority of urban Roman civilization, then at the height of its power and its development. Most of the work lasted 10 to 15 years under the reigns of Claude and Néron, and less than five years for the Pont du Gard. The entire aqueduct has several hundred meters of tunnels, three basins and around twenty bridges, of which the Pont du Gard remains the most spectacular.
It required 21,000 m3 of stones
The aqueduct itself is a masterpiece of engineering, testimony to the extraordinary mastery of the ancient builders : the difference in height is only 12 m for a total length of 50 kilometers, i.e. an average inclination of 24 cm /km or 0.24 mm/meter. These eloquent figures make it possible to take the measure of the technical prowess achieved by the Roman engineers who therefore had to demonstrate great precision to allow the water to flow by gravity to Nîmes. It meandered through the scrubland for nearly 50 km, bypassing the hills or crossing them by underground conduits, crossing the valleys by aerial works. The construction of the Bridge required 21,000 m3 of stones, limestone rocks extracted in the Roman quarries located near the ancient site. All the foundations, anchored in the rock, enabled it to resist the onslaught of time and the formidable floods of the Gardon, the famous Gardonnades. There are many remains of the aqueduct in the surrounding countryside. Marked trails around the Pont du Gard will allow you to discover them.