Previously, in my Maison Carree post, I mentioned that the French seem to devote an extraordinary amount of attention to the preservation of important cultural monuments. We see this, again, quite clearly in the Pont du Gard, one of the most well-preserved sections of a Roman aqueduct remaining with us today.
This particular aqueduct was built in the first century AD in order to supply water for the Roman city Nemausus (today called Nimes). The original aqueduct would have stretched for 50 km from a water source to the city, and the structure would have contained a very gradual slope along its entire length, allowing the water to be pushed along by the force of gravity. In order to maintain a continuous gradient, the Romans built Pont du Gard, this massive 50-meter-high bridge extending over the Gardon river, to keep the water at a constant slope.
As I strolled through the lovely park surrounding the bridge, and then onto the bridge itself, I found myself admiring the magnificent beauty of Pont du Gard, simply as a work of art. But the power of Roman architecture lies not just in its beauty but in its engineering, in the techniques of construction that enabled the Romans to create these massive structures. Pont du Gard is beautiful, yes, but it is also impressive as a symbol of efficient Roman infrastructure: a reminder that 2000 years ago, the Romans were able to feed running water into their cities, allowing for the growth and expansion of their nation in a startlingly modern way.
Within the visitor’s center, there is an excellent museum, dedicated to the Pont du Gard and the complexities of Roman engineering and infrastructure. You could spend an entire day in there. You can examine Roman lead pipes and valves, learn of how water was delivered into Roman houses, baths, and toilets, and discover fascinating Roman construction techniques. There is also a short movie you can watch, which explains the long history of Pont du Gard, from its time as part of an active aqueduct through the medieval ages, when it was used as a toll bridge, until the modern day. This museum, in addition to the bridge itself, is definitely worth a visit.
I’d like to leave you with a few more images of this beautiful structure. Enjoy! Thanks to my mom for these photos.