Have to take our hats off to the Romans! In the Luberon region of southern France, they constructed a bridge, called Pont Julien and to this day it is still standing, even though it is over 2000 years old.
Pont Julien On The Via Domitia
The Roman influence in France, and especially Provence was significant in the engineering and structures that were constructed. Just look at Pont du Gard, Les Arènes d’Arles, the Nimes Roman Amphitheatre, and the Théatre Antique d’Orange and Triumphal arch of Orange.
The Julien Bridge is the last remaining bridge that was part of the Via Domitia, which was a road the Romans built to connect Italy to Spain. This Domitia Way route went inland and along the coast, passing through French villages and cities which are now known as Apt, Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Nimes, and Narbonne.
Why was it called the Julien bridge? it was given a name associated with Apt’s Roman name, Colonia Apta Julia because the town of Apt was close by.
The Pont Julien bridge replaces an older Roman bridge that was made with just wood and stone. It was swept away by the strong river currents and in its place, this one was constructed. The centre arch was built to 16.2 metres high so the roadway was high enough to avoid any water. It was also constructed with had piles (columns) with holes to provide drainage and extra support.
Historic Monument In Provence
I took a walk there from Bonnieux because I couldn’t believe something this old could still be around. This well preserved Roman bridge was built in around 3 BC and was designated a “Monument Historique” in 1914 and up until 2005 vehicles were still using the bridge but today only pedestrians and cyclists can use it.
A new road was built nearby to handle the diverted traffic and a green way bicycle path, the Calavon cycle route, was installed in the Vaucluse area. It’s an excellent bike path that runs from Cavaillon to Voix. I did part of this trail from Cavaillon to Merindol years ago and really enjoyed it.
The Julien bridge reminded me of a mini Pont du Gard, the famous Roman aqueduct also built in the 1st century to carry water to Nimes. However, there isn’t any water or river running beneath Pont Julien. The Calavon River has all dried up.
Remains Of Pont Julien Today
When you arrive at the bridge, it is obvious that no cars or trucks are allowed. It looks like an ordinary bridge. It’s only 85 metres long and 5.5 metres wide. Nothing special. It is not until you walk down the path, adjacent to the bridge that you see how impressive it is.
This is an arched bridge that is 11.5 metres high and made out of limestone from the Luberon quarries. It has 3 semi-circular arches. I walked around it, under it, and on top of it, examining its construction and was surprised how intact it was.
Even through the ravages of time, wind and strong river currents, the bridge is still standing. Through the ages work has been done to preserve it and to keep the stone blocks together. It is a Roman monument that is worth a visit. Have a picnic under the shade of a tree and enjoy the view.
Getting To Pont Julien
Le Pont Julien is located north of Bonniuex (Distance: 6 kilometres)and west of Apt (Distance: 6 kilometres). It makes for an enjoyable walk or bicycle ride from either town. If you drive, parking is free.
Directions From Bonnieux
- Drive-Head northwest on D36 and then D108; at the roundabout, take the third exit.
- Time: 10 minutes (one way)
- Walk or bicycle-Head northwest on D36 and then join Route du Pont Julien (D149); at the roundabout, continue straight. Pont du Julien will be on your left.
- Time: 15-50 minutes (one way)
Directions From Apt
- Drive-Head west on D900 and then D108 towards Bonnieux; at the roundabout, take the third exit.
- Bicycle-Head west on D900 then take the Vote Domitienne (bicycle path that runs parallel to Avenue Victor Hugo), D201, D900, left onto D108 until you get to Pont Julien.
If you like Roman architecture like I do, check out these posts:
- 6 Roman Amphitheatres That Still Hold Events
- Fourvière Hill In Lyon
- Night-time Spectacle At The Pont du Gard: Les Féeries du Pont
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