Roquefavour Aquaduct

Though not nearly as ancient as the Pont du Gard,the Roquefavour Aqauduct, located near Aix en Provence, is equally as impressive.

I came upon it quite by accident, driving through the mountainous countryside. In route to Aix, we circled the mountainside on a small road, steep rock on one side and a drop into the valley below on the other. And then we descended into the valley, driving through the tiny village of Coudoux along more tree-covered winding roads.

Near Ventabren, unexpectedly and majestically, three stories of stone arches appeared above us. We pulled into a small parking area to take photos. Since, I’ve read that the best way to see the aquaduct is by hiking the area. From the road the view is only briefly visible as it is surrounded by the rising rocks. This makes sense because this portion of the waterway was built to traverse the narrow Arc River valley as it continues on its way to Marseille.

The three-level water conduit stands 83 meters (272 feet) and is 393 meters (more than 1200 feet) long.

In the early 1800s, the City of Marseille suffered a drought in which many people died from cholera. They decided to draw a fresh water source from the River Durance to Marseille. Built between 1841 and 1847, it was named the Marseille Canal and supplied nearly all of the city’s water until 1970. Today it still supplies a large majority of the city’s water.

Modelled after the Pont du Gard in style, the pont is newer, but longer and taller. Like the Roman aquaducts, from its source to its destination the gradient is gradual, taking advantage of the natural downward flow of water.  Ponts were built by the Romans to traverse low-lying areas and assure a consistent gradient. Building such massive structures across deep valleys required a large amount of building materials. The Romans develop the system of building arches as supports, reducing the amount of materials needed. The result was a functional, yet magnificent piece of architecture.