“The hugeness, the solidity, the unexpectedness, the monumental rectitude of the whole thing leave you nothing to say – at the time – and make you stand gazing. You simply feel that it is noble and perfect, that it has the quality of greatness… When the
vague twilight began to gather, the lonely valley seemed to fill itself with the shadow of the Roman name, as if the mighty empire were still as erect as the supports of the aqueduct; and it was open to a solitary tourist, sitting there sentimental, to believe that no people has ever been, or will ever be, as great as that, measured, as we measure the greatness of an individual, by the push they gave to what they undertook. The Pont du Gard is one of the three or four deepest impressions they have left; it speaks of them in a manner with which they might have been satisfied.” Henry James – British Novelist
Just North of the city of Nîmes sits the “Gateway to the Tarn” Pont du Gard. This majestic site was inhabited for thousands of years before the Romans built their aqueduct in the year 1 A.D. Artifacts testify to human occupation such as ceramic vestiges and
standing stones to the history of settlements in the
caves offering shelter from the elements but yet close to the river a vital source of both water and food. This ancient Roman bridge crosses the Gard River and is part of a thirty mile long aqueduct. In 1985 it was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. It is one of the best preserved examples of Roman architecture.
Standing 160 feet high, the three tiered bridge carries an estimated forty million gallons of water a day to the citizens of Nîmes. There is evidence suggesting that it remained in use until the late ninth century and remains a monument to the ingenuity and precision of the Roman engineers in a time of basic technology.
In the 19th century, archaeologists found human settlements. Further explorations allow us to see how the evolution of human history in this location. Multi-disipline research teams continue to excavate chronological evidence.
Used as a toll bridge ensured its survival during the Middle Ages. The tolls extracted from voyagers needing to cross the river were earmarked for its upkeep. From the 18th century on, it became a popular tourist attraction.
The visitor’s center has a wealth of information, museum and of course the usual gift shops that a multitude of tourists often expect. However, the people visiting today would see a river filled with swimmers, canoes, and those enjoying this treasure.
The Pont du Gard was constructed largely without the use of mortar or clamps. An estimated 50,00 tons of stone with some of the individual blocks weigh up to 6 tons.They were precisely cut to fit perfectly together by friction alone, eliminating the need for mortar.
The Pont du Gard’s design represents a fairly early stage in the development of Roman aqueducts. The technique of stacking arches on top of each other is awkward, expensive and the additional burden working with a very large amount of stone. Future aqueducts had a more sophisticated design,with the use of concrete to reduce their volume and building expenses. Roman architects were eventually able to do away with “stacking” altogether.