2. Travel to Les Baux
4. Tour Les Baux
6. Travel to Point du Gard
8. Back to Nimes
Les Baux, a strong-hold for the French Huguenots
The defensive possibilities of Les Baux led to the site being settled early on in human history. Traces of habitation have been found dating back as far as 6000 BC, and the site was used by the Celts as a hill fort or oppidum around the 2nd century BC. During the Middle Ages it became the seat of a powerful feudal lordship that controlled 79 towns and villages in the vicinity. The lords of Baux sought control of Provence for many years. They claimed ancestry from the Magus king Balthazar and placed the Star of Belthehem on their coat of arms. The knights of Les Baux use a scent derived from Cypress trees before battle to give them courage, as the symbol of Les Baux is the Cypress tree. L'Occitane En Provence make a [men's range] in this scent (Cypress, Frankincense and Vanilla) as a way of preserving the culture. Despite their strengths, the lords of Baux were deposed in the 12th century. However, the great castle at Les Baux became renowned for its court, famed for a high level of ornateness, culture and chivarlry. The domain was finally extinguished in the 15th century with the death of the last princess of Baux, Alice of Baux. Les Baux was later joined, along with Provence, to the French crown under the governance of the Manville family. It became a centre for Protestantism and its unsuccessful revolt against the crown, led Cardinal Richelieu in 1632 to order that the castle and its walls should be demolished. Les Baux is now given over entirely to the tourist trade, relying on a reputation as one of the most picturesque villages in France.
Pont du Gard
It has long been thought that the Pont du Gard was built by Augustus' son-in-law and aide, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, around the year 19 BC. Newer excavations, however, suggest the construction may have taken place in the middle of the first century A.D; consequently, opinion is now somewhat divided on the matter. Designed to carry the water across the small Gardon river valley, it was part of a nearly 50 km (31 mi) aqueduct that brought water from the Fontaines d'Eure springs near Uzes to the Castellum in the Roman city of Nemausus (Nîmes). The full aqueduct had a gradient of 34 cm/km (1/3000), descending only 17 m vertically in its entire length and delivering 20,000 cubic meters (5 million gallons) of water daily. It was constructed entirely without the use of mortar. The aqueduct's stones – some of which weigh up to 6 tons – were precisely cut to fit perfectly together eliminating the need for mortar. The masonry was lifted into place by block and tackle with a massive human-powered treadmill providing the power for the winch. A complex scaffold was erected to support the aqueduct as it was being built. The face of the aqueduct still bears the mark of its construction, in the form of protruding scaffolding supports and ridges on the piers which supported the semicircular wooden frames on which the arches were constructed. Various inscriptions are found across the surface, containing instructions used in construction. For example, "FRS II" (frons sinistra II, Latin for "left face 2"), phallic symbols (intended to ward off bad luck), and graffiti left by builders throughout the ages. The upper levels of the bridge are slightly curved in the upstream directions, a fact long attributed to the engineers wanting to strengthen it against the flow of water, like a dam wall. However, a microtopgraphic survey carried out in 1989 showed that the bend is caused by the daily expansion and contraction of stones under the heat of the sun, by about 5 millimetres. Over the centuries, this process has produced the deformation witnessed now. It is believed to have taken about three years to build, employing between 800 and 1,000 workers.