The Pont du Gard is an ancient aqueduct bridge built by the Romans in the first century AD in southern France . It’s located in Vers-Pont-du-Gard near Remoulins and it crosses the Gard River . The aqueduct is the highest Roman aqueduct and the best preserved , it was also listed on World Heritage Sites list in 1985 . The bridge has three rows of arches, standing 48.8 m (160 ft) high and it was used until the 9th century , a long time after the Rome’s fall , however , the lack of maintenance after the forth century increased the degradation of the bridge . Today it is one of France’s most popular tourist attractions.
Pont du gard history and description
Designed to carry the water across the small Gardon river valley, it was part of a nearly 50 km (31 mi) aqueduct that brought water from springs near Uzès to the Roman city of Nemausus (Nimes). The full aqueduct had a gradient of 34 cm/km (1/3000), descending only 17 m vertically in its entire length and delivering 20,000 cubic meters (44 million gallons) of water daily.
It was constructed entirely without the use of mortar. The aqueduct’s stones – some of which weigh up to 6 tons – are held together with iron clamps. The masonry was lifted into place by block and tackle with a massive human-powered treadmill providing the power for the winch. A complex scaffold was erected to support the aqueduct as it was being built. The face of the aqueduct still bears the mark of its construction, in the form of protruding scaffolding supports and ridges on the piers which supported the semicircular wooden frames on which the arches were constructed. It is believed to have taken about three years to build, employing between 800 and 1,000 workers.
From the Middle Ages to the 18th century, the aqueduct was used as a conventional bridge to facilitate foot traffic across the river. The pillars of the second level were reduced in width to make more room for the traffic, but this jeopardized the stability of the structure. In 1702 the pillars were restored to their original width in order to safeguard the aqueduct. In 1743, a new bridge was built next to the arches of the lower level, so that the road traffic could cross on a purpose-built bridge. The aqueduct was restored in the 18th century, by which time it had become a major tourist sight, and was restored again in the reign of Napoleon III in the mid-19th century.
The outstanding quality of the bridge’s masonry led to it becoming an obligatory stop for French journeymen masons on their traditional tour around the country (see Compagnons du Tour de France), many of whom have left their names on the stonework. Markings left by the original builders can also be seen, indicating the positions in which the dressed stones were to be placed: for instance, FRS II (standing for frons sinistra II, or “front left 2″).
The French Government sponsored a major redevelopment project in conjunction with local sources, UNESCO and the EU which concluded in 2000, pedestrianising the entire area around the aqueduct and greatly improving the visitor facilities, including establishing a museum on the north bank. The project has been criticized for its cost (€32 million) and for the perceived loss of natural beauty of the surrounding landscape and area. One side-effect is that it is no longer possible to walk through the conduit at the top of the aqueduct. However, the redevelopment has ensured that the area around the Pont du Gard is now much quieter due to the removal of vehicle traffic, and the new museum provides a much improved historical context for visitors. [article source: www.beyond.fr , wikipedia.org]