Pont du Gard: Spellbinding Bridge

Amazing Europe | | November 25, 2010 at 1:25 am




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Pont du Gard is stone aqueduct comprising of three levels. It crosses the river valley of Gardon. It is situated 25 km to the west of Avignon. Pont du Gard was constructed in BC 19 by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, who was the son-in-law of Augustus.

Pont du Gard
was granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO in 1985. The aqueduct was designed for carrying water across the river valley of Gardon. The aqueduct stretches for 50 km bringing water from the springs of Uzes. The water was then transported to Nimes or Nemausus, which is an ancient Roman city. The aqueduct’s gradient consisted of 34 cm/km. It descends nearly 17 meters vertically. It delivers close to 20,000 cubic meters of water everyday.

No mortar was used in the construction. Some of the stones used in the construction of the aqueduct weigh nearly six tons. Iron clamps are used to hold them together. The masonry was situated into place by blocks. A mammoth treadmill, powered by humans, provided the much-needed power for the winch. A complicated scaffolding had been erected for supporting the aqueduct. The aqueduct’s face bears the construction signs. The scaffolding supports that protrude are one of these signs. The ridges located on the piers support the wooden frames which are semicircular. The arches were constructed on these frames. Pont du Gard took three years to complete. It employed nearly 1,000 workers and artisans.

The structure was neglected from the fourth century. Nearly two-thirds of the conduit space was filled by deposits. Pont du Gard became almost unusable. Local inhabitants started using the stones for their own, private needs. However, until today the structure remains fairly intact.

Pont du Gard bridge was utilized as a standard bridge for foot traffic to cross the river. This continued from the middle Ages up to the 18th century. The pillars belonging to the second level saw a reduction in width for allowing more room for traffic. However, this hampered the structure’s stability. In the year 1702, the pillars saw restoration to their earlier width. This was done to stabilize the aqueduct.

In the year 1743, a modern bridge was constructed near the lower level arches. This ensured that the traffic on the road would cross a bridge that was built on purpose. Restoration work was carried out in the 18th century. During this time Pont du Gard bridge became a major tourist attraction. During the reign of Napolean III, further restoration work was carried out.

The masonry of the bridge was of remarkable quality. This made it mandatory for French masons to stop at the site while they were touring the country. Some of the masons have inscribed their names on the stonework.

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