12 November 2014

French Bridges: 6. Carpentras Aqueduct

I leave Avignon behind now, for two final bridges from the south of France.

The aqueduct at Carpentras is a magnificent structure. It was built over a 14 year period, beginning in 1720, to the designs of local architect Antoine d'Allemande with Jean de Clapiès, to carry water from the north into the city. De Clapiès seems to have been an interesting fellow, a Director of Public Works but also an astronomer and professor of mathematics.

The structure has 48 masonry arches, 729m long in total, and up to 23m tall. At its top, it is only 1.75m wide, and carries a channel a mere 0.25m in width.

The aqueduct no longer supplies water, but survives as a historic monument. The main line of arches is impressive but also quite unusual, with an enormous taper to the piers, well beyond what is required for stability.

The most interesting features of the viaduct are at its southern end, where the aqueduct changes direction and is combined with a lower-level structure, suitable only to carry foot traffic. This part of the viaduct spans the River Auzon, and the spans are larger and made architecturally more prominent. The footway spans step out around the pier legs for the taller aqueduct, carried in part on little squinch arches.

I love this bridge both for its magnificence and its idiosyncrasy.

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