Posts Tagged ‘Bridge’

During the summer I was glued to an unlikely book, ‘Bridges’ by Dan Cruikshank. Full of wonderful photography, it focuses on the development of bridges from antiquity and also on the stories behind individual ones: the spiritual and symbolic linking of communities by the bridge in Mostar, the grit and determination behind the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the uncertain beginnings of the wobbly but wonderful Millenium Bridge in London.

France features throughout, hardly surprising as there are such a variety of architectural styles – the extraordinary Pont du Gard which is part of the system lowering water down, centimetre by centimetre to Nimes; the defensive bridge over the Lot at Cahors; right up to date with the soaring beauty of the Millau Bridge.

But what did surprise me was the inclusion of a bridge not far from Aix that I had never heard of – the Pont Flavien. Aixcentric had to find out!

It’s a little jewel of a bridge, bypassed now and sitting in a dusty field near St Chamas. There had been a wooden bridge across the Touloubre since antiquity but a local Roman-Gaul aristocrat Lucius Donnius Flavos had left money in his will to have a better bridge constructed. Its two arches have pilasters topped by eagles and crouching lions sit on top. It was probably built in 20BC and sits astride the via Julia Augusta.

Following excavations, you can see the remnants of the Roman road with ruts worn by chariots and carts. Incredibly it was in use until fairly recently. The bypass and modern bridge were built in the fifties.

It’s been knocked about quite a bit in the past. In the 18th century, the western arch collapsed destroying the Roman lions. And who should come to the rescue to rebuild it but Aix’s fine sculptor Chastel. (read here for a previous post on Chastel https://aixcentric.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1336&action=edit).

This has made me wonder whether he got the lions-and-eagles theme from here for his monument in the Place des Prêcheurs?

Then the same arch was damaged by a German tank and finally collapsed, hit by an American truck.

Afterwards, we decided to explore a little more. The area around l’Etang de Berre is full of olive trees and vines, lots of caves to visit including Château Virant. Miramas-le-Vieux is a nearby village perché which has a recommended glacerie Le Quillé where according to my guide-book you can relax on the terrace with wonderful views. Not yesterday. It only opens on weekends and then only in the afternoon! Dommage. But there are a couple of other cafés with terraces and we did get to see some interesting sights.

They have a tree which is part of the ‘Arbres Remarquables de France’ programme. Apparently 200 trees have been included ‘pour retrouver nos racines’ and this is one of them.

A local artist and sculptor has an open studio with this lovely lady basking in the sunshine, happy for Aixcentric to photograph her I’m sure.

And finally this window display which was so intriguing – what is with that sock!



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