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Having stayed one day At Nismes, wee parted
from thence and went to A place
called the Pont Du guard, 4 leagues from Nismes, which is
as excellent a piece of worke as is in France, and is worthy
to be seene by all strangers. And if the Romans
have left any thing either for a marke of their greatnesse,
or dispence, or excellency of worke, this may be wel
esteemed to be it. There are 3 Bridges, one on the
topp of another, or 3 Rowes or Arches. The lowest
Bridge hath six Arches, where Passe men and Beastes,
that of the middle hath 11, and the third Bridge hath 30.
The higth of this worke is 82 feete, according to those
that have measured it.
Francis Mortoft's Journal of his travels in France and Italy in 1659
Pont du Guard is nine miles north of Nismes, and justly reckoned one of the noblest and compleatest remains of antiquity, having been built by the Romans to support an aqueduct that brought water to the city of Nismes. This admirable structure, lies over the river Gardon, and is indeed three bridges, one upon another, which join two mountains together. (..) This aqueduct, when it came near the city, was divided into three branches, one of which brought the water to the amphitheatre, the second supplied a great fountain at Nismes and the third served several private houses.
Thomas Nugent - The Grand Tour - 1749
About five in the afternoon, I had the first glimpse of the famous Pont du Garde, which stands on the right hand, about the distance of a league from the post-road to Nismes, and about three leagues from that city. I would not willingly pass for a false enthusiast in taste; but I cannot help observing, that from the first distant view of this noble monument, till we came near enough to see it perfectly, I felt the strongest emotions of impatience that I had ever known; and obliged our driver to put his mules to the full gallop, in the apprehension that it would be dark before we reached the place.
Tobias Smollett - Travels through France and Italy - 1766
While I contemplated this stupendous pile, stretching sublimely from rock to
rock across the valley, and the broad stream of
the Gardon rolling with ease through its wide
arches, I felt my mind strongly impressed
with veneration for those extraordinary men,
who had the spirit to plan, and the force to
rear such colossal monuments of their art.
No difficulties could dismay them, none
could occur that were not removed by their
persevering efforts; the life of a Roman
soldier was spent in continual toils; his victorious hands, that had bowed the stubborn
barbarian to the yoke, were afterwards
employed in securing the tranquillity and
obedience of the conquered province, by
raising stupendous mounds and fortifications,
or in procuring with incredible pains the
conveniencies and luxuries of life for the
settlements established within them: scarce
is there a corner of the world, which was
known to the ancients, where the traveller
does not to this day, meet with stately memorials of their indefatigable and elevated
Henry Swinburne - Travels through Spain in the Years 1775 and 1776 to which is added a Journey from Bayonne to Marseille - 1787 Edition
The bridge by which the road crosses the Gardon on a level with the lower tier of arches, and formed by merely widening them, is a modern addition to the ancient structure, erected in 1743 by the States of Languedoc (it was enlarged and strengthened in 1855-1858).
John Murray III - Hand-book for Travellers in France - 1843
(left) Second row of arches; (right) projecting stones which were used for erecting scaffolding
whole work is formed of
three rows of arches, one over another, all built
of free stone, of the same consistency as the amphitheatre of Nismes. The lowest bridge which
lies over the river Gardon has six arches. (..) The
second bridge is supported by eleven arches of the
same height and breadth as the former, but not
so thick, nor is there a way for people to pass
over. The third, which stands upon thirty-five
arches, and supports the aqueduct, is five hundred and fourscore feet and a half in length and
the whole height of the bridges, from the river
which runs under the lowermost arch, to the top
of the uppermost, is 186 feet. Nugent
I expected to find the building, in some measure, ruinous; but was agreeably disappointed, to see it look as fresh as the bridge at Westminster. The climate is either so pure and dry, or the free-stone, with which it is built, so hard, that the very angles of them remain as acute as if they had been cut last year. Indeed, some large stones have dropped out of the arches; but the whole is admirably preserved, and presents the eye with a piece of architecture, so unaffectedly elegant, so simple, and majestic, that I will defy the most phlegmatic and stupid spectator to behold it without admiration. (..) The aqueduct, for the continuance of which this superb work was raised, conveyed a stream of sweet water from the fountain of Eure, near the city of Uzes, and extended near six leagues in length. Smollett
Conduit: (above-left) section entering the right bank hill; (above-right) initial section; (below) main section
The highest range of arches carries a small canal, about 4 ft high and 4 ft wide, just large enough for a man to creep through, still retaining a thick lining of Roman cement. It is covered with stone slabs, along which it is possible to walk from one end to the other, and to overlook the valley of the Gardon. Murray
(left) First arches on the right bank hill; (right) stones of the first pier bearing Roman numbers which indicated where they should be placed
It consists of 3 rows of arches raised one above the other; (..) the whole in a simple, if not stern, style of architecture, destitute of ornament. It is by its magnitude and the skilful fitting of its enormous blocks that it makes an impression upon the mind. (..) Its date and builder are alike lost in oblivion, but it is attributed to M. Agrippa, son in law of Augustus BC 19. Murray
Today the aqueduct is dated ca 40-50 AD in the time of Emperor Claudius, who is credited also with the construction of the Aqueduct of Giers at Lyon. The construction technique employed at Pont-du-Gard was based on the assemblage of large stones without mortar and is similar to that of aqueducts at Tarragona and Segovia. Aqueducts with large use of bricks and mortar were built in Rome and at Merida.
The River Gardon
Pont-du-Gard stands over the river Gardon, which is a beautiful pastoral stream, brawling among rocks, which form a number of pretty natural cascades, and overshadowed on each side with trees and shrubs, which greatly add to the rural beauties of the scene. It rises in the Cevennes, and the sand of it produces gold. (..) If I lived at Nismes, or Avignon (which last city is within four short leagues of it) I should take pleasure in forming parties to come hither, in summer, to dine under one of the arches of the Pont du Garde, on a cold collation. Smollett
The Pont du Gard is situated in a solitary spot, away from any high road, between two rocky hills over the river Gardon, whose steep banks are clothed with wild fig trees, olives and a variety of beautiful shrubs in the most romantic manner.
William Coxe - Galignani's Traveller's Guide Through France -1819
It is the more striking from the utter solitude in which it stands, a rocky valley, partly covered with brushwood and greensward, with scarce a human habitation in sight, only a few goats browsing. Murray
Grotte de la Salpêtrière
In 1872 evidence of prehistoric human activities was found in a cave on the right bank of the Gardon, 200 yards downstream of the aqueduct, which was used as a temporary salpêtrière (powder magazine). Excavations identified several layers of prehistoric occupation from fragments of stone tools and pottery stretching from ca 45,000 to 4,000 BC. Those which were particularly abundant in one layer were dated ca 19,000 and attributed to the "Salpetrian" Upper Palaeolithic culture.
Place aux Herbes (the former market square, aka Place de la République) surrounded by porticoes
Nismes, and a little way to the right, you pass by
the city Uzès, the capital of a dutchy, as well as bishopric in Lower Languedoc, situated among the
mountains, on the little river Alzon. (..) It is a small place, containing about seven or
eight hundred families. All over the
town there are a great number of stone arches,
which are said to have been erected to defend
the inhabitants from the heat of the sun in summer. Nugent
Uzes, a picturesque old town (Ucetia). (..) The Places Dampmartin and de la République are bordered with old arcades.
Southern France, including Corsica: Handbook for Travellers by Karl Baedeker - 1914
There is little evidence of Ucetia, the Roman town, but fragments of floor mosaics and statues suggest that it was chosen as a suburban residence by wealthy citizens of Nemausus (Nîmes), because of its location on a hill surrounded by woods.
(left/centre) Palais du Duché: Tour Bermonde and another tower; (right) Tour de l'Evêque or de L'Horloge
In the XIth century Uzès was a fiefdom of the Counts of Toulouse. Bermond d'Uzès (1138-1181) fortified his residence with a tall tower which is still named after him, although it was modified by the addition of turrets. The feudal lords of Uzès shared their power with the bishops of the town, who could rely on substantial revenues and erected their own tower opposite Tour Bermonde.
(left) Tour du Roi; (centre) Hotel Dampmartin; (right) Maison Alméras
In the early XIIIth century the Crusade against the Cathars weakened the power of Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse (aka Count of Saint-Gilles). In 1226 King Louis VIII of France conquered Uzès and the town was annexed to his kingdom. The following centuries saw periods of economic growth alternating with pestilences and famines. Internal strife led to the construction of other defensive towers, some of which were eventually incorporated into later buildings.
(left) Palais du Duché; (right) gravestone of Emanuel de Crussol (1570-1657), IIIrd Duke of Uzès
We then ascend to (..) the Duché, or ducal palace, of the 11th-l6th cent., but restored in the 19th.
The chief features are the keep (12th cent.), the Gothic chapel, and the
remains of a tower (14th cent.). A vaulted passage leads to the Tour de L'Horloge
(14th cent.). Baedeker.
The first Duke of Uzès was created by King Charles IX in 1565; this designation was raised to that of First Duke of France in replacement of Henri II, Duke of Montmorency, who in 1632 was sentenced to death for being involved in a plot to kill King Louis XIII. Emanuel de Crussol, the first Duke of Uzès to enjoy this rank, was First Gentleman Usher to Queen Anne of Austria, when she acted as regent for her son Louis XIV. His coat of arms is surrounded by the collars of the Order of St. Michael, founded by King Louis IX in 1469, and of the Order of the Holy Spirit, founded by King Henri III in 1578. The orders were a French response to the Order of the Golden Fleece which was founded in Burgundy in 1430, but became the highest chivalry order of the House of Habsburg.
Former Episcopal Palace and Cathedral from Tour Bermonde
The cathedral is dedicated to St. Theodorit; the terrace on one side of it
affords an admirable prospect of the neighbouring country. Nugent
The pretty boulevard leads to the right to the Cathedral of St. Theodorit (17th-18th cent.). The charming Tour Fenestrelle (12th cent.), a relic of an earlier church destroyed in 1621, rises in seven stories, each with arcades. The old Evéché (17th cent.) is now the Sous-Prefecture and court-house. Baedeker
The French Wars of Religion had a devastating effects on Uzès, which became a Protestant stronghold. In 1621 the Cathedral was greatly damaged and only its XIth century Romanesque bell tower was spared.
Tour Fenestrelle is the only round bell tower of France and it was designed following a pattern which was developed in Italy (see the bell tower of S. Apollinare in Classe at Ravenna). The diocese of Uzès was abolished during the French Revolution. In 1822 its parishes were included in that of Nîmes.
Palais du Duché: (left) Renaissance façade; (right) one of its stucco panels; another detail can be seen in the image used as background for this page
This town, though small, has a very
considerable trade in woolen goods, especially in
serges (a type of twill fabric), which are much esteemed. Nugent
The population of Uzès in the XVIIIth century is estimated in the region of 10,000, but the town declined afterwards and in the 1930s it reached a minimum of 4,000. Because of this downturn many houses were closed and were not modernized, so that the town maintained its old, albeit decaying, aspect. In 1962 a law was passed to promote the restoration of French historical towns and Uzès greatly benefitted from it. It has now a population of 9,000.
XVIIth century portals: (left) Rue Saint-Etienne; (rue) Rue Paul Foussat
Plan of this section:
Environs of Arles: Saint-Gilles, Aigues-Mortes and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Carpentras (Carpentaracte), Cavaillon (Cabellio) and Pernes-les-Fontaines
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and Le Thor
Narbonne (Narbo Martius)
Pont-du-Gard and Uzès
Saint-Bertrand-des-Comminges (Lugdunum Convenarum)