Where is the highest aqueduct

Aqueduct Pont du Gard - a masterpiece of antiquity

Once upon a time, the well-known Roman general Agrippa was given an almost impossible task. Because his father-in-law asked him to build a 50-kilometer-long aqueduct that would extend from a spring to what is now the city of Nîmes in southern France. To accomplish the task, Agrippa employed the best Roman engineers of his time. With success: Because the result of these efforts, the Pont du Gard aqueduct, still exists today and is one of the most visited sights in France.

Table of Contents
Figures, data, facts about the Pont du Gard | Weight of the Pont du Gard is around 50,000 tons | The history of the Pont du Gard | The construction of the Pont du Gard | Hotels, Apartments and Vacation Rentals | The Pont du Gard for tourists | Worthwhile excursion destinations near the point of interest | Opening times and prices | Prices | Directions and parking | address

The Pont du Gard is the tallest aqueduct in the world and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The bridge from Roman times is located between Avignon and Uzès at the level of the town of Bégude de Vers-Pont-du-Gard on the D981 road in southern France. The Roman bridge is superbly preserved and is considered a unique example of Roman engineering. A visit to the Pont du Gards and the attached museum are therefore almost a must on a holiday in Provence and a highlight that you should not miss.

Figures, data, facts about the Pont du Gard

  • use: Aqueduct to Nîmes
  • Crossing: River Gardon
  • construction: Arched bridge with vaulted stone vaults
  • overall length: 275 meters
  • width: 6 meters
  • height: 49 meters
  • length: 50 kilometers
  • Widest arc: 24.4 meters
  • construction time: around the birth of Christ (1st century before or after Christ)
  • Amount of water transported: 20,000 cubic meters / day

The Pont du Gard spans 275 meters over the Gorges du Gardon and the Gorges River and was originally intended as a water conduit system for the residents of the city of Nîmes, then Nemausus. The water was transported from Uzès, 50 kilometers away, to Nîmes over a period of 500 years. A difficult undertaking, as the difference in altitude on the route was only 17 meters and the Gardon river had to be crossed in a 50-meter-deep valley.

The weight of the Pont du Gard is around 50,000 tons

The resulting aqueduct has 52 semi-arches on three floors. The lower level of the aqueduct has six arches, eleven in the middle and 35 arches at the top, with the widest arch of the aqueduct being almost 25 meters long. The aqueduct runs over the upper floor. The weight of the construction is around 50,000 tons, which corresponds to 21,000 cubic meters of stone that the Romans obtained from a nearby quarry. The quarries are now exploited, but there are still numerous quarries in the north from which the limestone, which was typically used for construction on the pont, comes from.

In the days of the Romans, around 20,000 cubic meters of water ran through the 50-kilometer-long aqueduct, which meant that the Romans in Nîmes (Nemausus) could look forward to fountains, running water, clean streets and more after they were built. The length of the aqueduct is explained by the fact that some mountain formations had to be crossed for the construction. Because the actual linear distance between source and destination is only 20 kilometers.

The history of the Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard is a Roman aqueduct and was previously used to supply water to the city of Nîmes.

The Pont du Gard can look back on an eventful history. For a long time it was assumed that the aqueduct in Provence was built around 19 BC. Today, however, it is believed that the construction work on this architectural masterpiece of antiquity did not begin until around 50 AD in the 1st century. This was the conclusion reached when archaeologists found numbering on the stones of the aqueduct and evidence of the use of scaffolding and pulley blocks. The bridge in southern France was built by around 1,000 men, including many slaves and prisoners of war, who erected the architectural masterpiece with comparatively simple means such as chisels, mallets, angles, spirit levels, shovels and construction cranes with pulleys until completion. The construction cranes were driven by men who walked in a treadmill.

After its completion, the aqueduct secured the water supply for the people of Nîmes for around 500 years. However, the maintenance of the bridge has been neglected more and more since the 4th century, which meant that the aqueduct was completely unusable during the 9th century and lost its importance. As a result, the stones of the aqueduct were removed over time and used for other purposes.

Pont du Gard as a road bridge

In the Middle Ages, the Pont du Gard was finally used as a road bridge, until a new road bridge was finally built next to the aqueduct in 1747 to protect the Roman structure and to direct traffic over this bridge. This bridge for traffic, which was built by Henri Pitot between 1754 and 1747 at the level of the lowest arches of the Pont du Gard, is not a particularly beautiful sight, but it is largely thanks to it that we have the bridge from Roman times today can still marvel at it in all its glory. In 1840 the Pont du Gard was listed and finally restored under Napoleon III between 1853 and 1855. It was at this time that the staircase was built, which makes it possible to see the upper part of the bridge and the “slide” leading to the water.

In 1930, the Pont du Gard was finally protected by French law and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Crossing the Roman bridge was possible until 1996. Since then, crossing has been prohibited and access is no longer possible. The associated museum, located a few hundred meters from the building, was also opened in 1996.

Both Charles IX (1564), Louis XIV and Louis XVI visited the Pont du Gard, as it was symbolic at the time to be associated as a regent with structures that last for centuries.

The construction of the Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard translates as Gard Bridge.

The Pont du Gard was built in Roman square construction (opus quadratum). This means that Cretan limestones were used, which, according to the construction method, have the same height. According to the architecture of the time, mortar was not used, but the stones, which weigh up to 6 tons, are held together without mortar and only by the existing pressure and the resulting frictional forces.

Each of the individual arches has the shape of a semicircle made of wedge-shaped stones, with the joints of the respective stone pointing to the center of the semicircle. Such a structure can be subjected to far greater loads than a support structure. However, it is necessary to anchor bridges of this type well not only to the ground, but also to the sides, since the forces that occur due to their own weight and loads are not only passed on vertically downwards, but also to the outside. The only binding agent used was a cement-like mixture from which the foundations for the pillars in the waters of the Gardon River were built.

Particularly low gradient

The Pont du Gard was originally 12 arches longer in the upper part, of which only six arches in the lower level with a height of up to 22 meters and pillars with a thickness of six meters have been preserved. In the middle level there are eleven arches with a height of 20 meters and a pillar thickness of four meters. The upper floor now consists of 35 arches with a height of up to seven meters and pillars 3 meters thick. The waterway in the upper part is 1.20 meters wide and 1.80 meters high. The flow rate and direction are dictated by a gradient of just 2.5 centimeters from one side of the Gardon River to the other.

It is particularly impressive to see the slight incline that had to be used and how the Romans managed to keep the incline steadily over the entire course. Precise calculations were necessary for this. Among other things, the gradient had to be lower in the bends than on the straight stretches in order to avoid excessive pressure in the monument.

Hotels, apartments and holiday homes

Hotels, apartments and holiday homes near the Pont du Gard can be found on www.booking.com.

The Pont du Gard for tourists

The Pont du Gard, along with the Segovia aqueduct, is the best preserved in the world. It is also the tallest structure of its kind. These two facts and the fact that the aqueduct is almost 2000 years old and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site make it a magnet for almost a million tourists a year who visit the Roman Bridge, Take a guided tour and visit the museum belonging to the monument. There are also restaurants close to the site.

Tickets for attractions and activities

Tickets for the Pont du Gard, tours and activities in the area can be found at www.getyourguide.de.

The museum at the Pont du Gard

In addition to the Roman aqueduct itself, the museum on the Pont du Gard is of course of particular interest to visitors. It is open daily (with the exception of December 1st to 21st) and shows the origins and background of the building. A 13-minute short film will be shown in the adjoining cinema. There is also a children's section called "Ludo", which is aimed at children between the ages of 5 and 12, as well as changing exhibitions.

The open-air part of the museum includes a small circular route that leads through a recreated cultural landscape of the region. The "Memoires de Garrigue" are an exhibition on 15 hectares that provides information about different plants and cultivation methods and how these have changed over the past 2,000 years. A nice walk where you can learn something as well.

Possible activities around the Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard was once part of an approximately 50 km long aqueduct.

The area around the canal, which is on the list of World Heritage Sites, is a great place to have a picnic. Upstream at Collias or Pont St-Nicholas you can rent canoes and paddle a canoe from Collias to the Pont du Gard in around two hours.

Those who want to hike along the famous aqueduct can, for example, hike the Sentier d’interprétation de La Pierre Vers-Pont-du-Gard. This leads from verse along the historical quarries. Alternatively, there is also a hiking trail that leads from the center of Vers to the monument. If you want, you can also walk from Bégude de St. Pierre in the direction of Saint-Bonnet-du-Gard with its Romanesque castle church or Sernhac. The tour through the Gorges du Gardon on the GR6 long-distance hiking trail is also very nice.

Worthwhile excursion destinations near the sight

The Pont du Gard is definitely worth a visit and can be easily combined with a visit to other popular excursion destinations in the area. The following popular travel destinations in Provence should be mentioned here, for example.

  • Avignon: The papal city of Avignon is about 25 kilometers from the Pont du Gard and, with its old town, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But otherwise the city of almost 100,000 on the left bank of the Rhône is definitely worth a visit. Among other things, there is the world-famous bridge from the song "Sur le Pont d’Avignon".
  • Nîmes: Nîmes, the original destination of the aqueduct, is about a 40-minute drive from the Pont du Gard. The city is best known for the Roman remains of the amphitheater and the Maison Carrée.
  • Castillon-du-Gard: The Provencal village from the Middle Ages is not far from the Pont du Gard and has wonderful picturesque streets that invite people to stroll past the houses made of gilded stone. Do not miss the view from the viewpoint of the village to enjoy the view of the Gardon Valley and the famous bridge during your discovery tour.
  • Uzès: The place in the mountains is about 20 kilometers from the Pont du Gard and refreshingly different. Uzès offers a completely different atmosphere than the two aforementioned cities, is smaller and more homely. The medieval garden and the central square “Place aux Herbes” are delightful.
  • Remoulins: The city near the Pont du Gard has some interesting buildings to offer. The city gate and the remains of the former city fortifications, the Church of Notre Dame de Betléem, the parish church of Notre Dame et Saint Martin and the bridge over the Gardon are worth a visit.
  • Montpellier: The beautiful city not far from the sea is not far from the Roman aqueduct. One of the highlights in Montpellier is definitely the Fabre Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of European art in France.
  • Camargue: The Camargue is probably one of the most famous landscapes in Provence. It is alluvial land created by the Rhône river. For travelers, the pink flamingos, the white horses and the black bulls, which live largely undisturbed and are popular photo opportunities, are of particular interest.

Opening times and prices

The Pont du Gard is open at the following times.

  • November to March: until 5 p.m.
  • April and October: until 6 p.m.
  • September: until 8 p.m.
  • May and June: until 9 p.m.
  • July and August: until 11:30 p.m.

tip: In the evening, the Pont du Gard is bathed in breathtaking light as part of a lighting show. You should not miss this!

Prices

The Pont du Gard is not freely accessible, but entry must be paid to enter the area around the world heritage. Tickets can be found here.

Entrance fees:

  • Adults: 9.50 euros
  • Children (up to 18 years): free

Guided tours through the upper level are offered.

  • Adults: 6.00 euros
  • Children (under 6 years): free

Directions and parking

The world heritage is located between Remoulins and Vers-Pont du Gard.

  • By car: The best way to get to the Pont du Gard is by car or rental car. Follow the A9 to exit 23 at Remoulins and then follow the signs to the aqueduct. Sufficient parking spaces are available for parking. The parking spaces are located on both the right bank and the left bank. The fee for using the parking spaces is relatively high.
  • By bus: There are public buses from Nîmes and Avignon to the Pont du Gard. From Avignon this is the A15 line, from Nîmes the B21 line.
  • By boat: From Collias you can also go to the Pont du Gard by canoe on the waterway.

address

  • Pont du Gard
  • Le Bégude - 400 Route du Pont du Gard
  • F-30210 Vers-Pont-du-Gard