Pont Julien – Bonnieux, France - Atlas Obscura

Pont Julien

Bonnieux, France

From carts to cars, this leftover Roman bridge in France has managed to survive for centuries. 


Named after Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, this lovely three-arch stone bridge is one of the handful of Roman bridges that still exist in Provence.

It is the only bridge that remains on the Via Domitia, the first Roman road to connect Northern Italy to Spain through conquered Gaul (present-day southern France). This road bridge has been carrying traffic over the Calavon river for more than 2000 years, a testimony to the extraordinary skills of the Roman masons.

Built during the 1st century BC (probably between 45 and 27 BC, around the time nearby present-day Apt was founded), the Pont Julien is made up of limestone blocks quarried from the nearby Luberon mountains. It has three perfectly semi-circular arches, with the central one being slightly bigger than the other two, so that the two pillars may stand on solid bedrock foundations. Two small apertures have been carved in the pillars to ease the pressure and prevent the bridge from being knocked over when the river grows large, something hard to imagine given the small trickle that the Calavon river has dried into.

Although the bridge is not very big by modern standards at only about 262 feet (80m) long and 20 feet (6m) wide, it is still a marvel of Roman engineering. Since mortar had not been discovered yet, masons had to carefully assemble blocks to perfectly interlock with each other. One can only wonder how this rudimentary technique allowed Romans to build such a long-lasting work.

Indeed, the Pont Julien has been constantly used for traffic for over 2000 years - or maybe more, considering the remains of an older bridge can be found nearby. Car traffic was finally discontinued in 2005 in an effort to protect it from further damage, although cyclists still use it as part of a popular bike trail. A new bridge has been built next to it, but whether it will last as long as its predecessor remains to be seen.

Know Before You Go

The bridge is located north of Bonnieux on the D108 and west of Apt, south of the D900.
The best way to get there is to bike westward along the bike trail from Apt.

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