The Pont Julien at Bonnieux
The Luberon in Provence is best known for its beautiful ‘villages perchés’ which visitors flock to in large numbers especially during July and August. Many are unaware of the existence of Pont Julien and indeed some visitors simply stumble upon it while visiting the most well known of these villages, Bonnieux.
Named after the nearby town of Julia Apta, now known as Apt, this ancient and amazing stone bridge built in the year 3BC, stands majestically just off the D900 from Avignon to Apt. Used originally by Roman soldiers and traders it went on to carry vehicular traffic for more than two millennia.
It continued to serve many generations of Provençaux right up to 2005 when the last car, driven by an expatriate Irishman living in nearby Lacoste, Finnbar Mac Eoin, crossed over it. A plaque on the bridge declares “We do not know who was the first person to cross but an Irishman was the last .” Nowadays only pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to cross.
The Pont Julien originally carried the Via Domitia, the Roman Road from Italy to Spain, over the Calavon River and was built with such precision that the limestone blocks, cut from the Luberon Mountains, needed no mortar. The portals between the arches allowed flood water through and the continued existence of this wonderful structure testifies to the genius of the Roman engineers who built it.
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