The photo (left) was taken from the eastern side, showing the northern end at the right.
This lovely three-arched bridge is in excellent condition and when we visited in 1996 it was still in use as a road (and cycling) bridge on the D149 connecting the main Apt-Cavaillon road with Bonnieux and Lacoste.
Just a couple of years ago (around 2003-2004?) a new, modern road bridge was built a couple of hundred meters away[Photo 9]. Although the 2000-year-old Roman bridge is still very sturdy, it is too narrow, and probably considered not safe enough, for 21st-century traffic.
Ten years after our first photos, almost to the day, we stopped for another visit, and again photographed some cylists crossing the bridge. While road traffic has been diverted, the cycling trail and the Grande Randonée hiking trail still take the ancient way.
As old as it is, there are signs of an even older bridge that once stood on the same spot. Of the many bridges along the Provencal part of the Via Domitia, the Pont Julien is the only survivor.
The Pont Julien was on the Roman Domitienne Way (Voie Domitienne), the main route from Cisalpine (northern Italy) to Transalpine Gaul (Provence). This was the normal way Roman armies entered Gau, and the route followed the Durance valley for much of the way.
The bridge was built, probably in 2nd or 3rd century, of limestone blocks from the nearby Luberon mountains. The arches are semi-circular to minimise the tension on the abutments. The arches are of different sizes, because the piers had to be positioned according to spots of bedrock to a solid foundation.
History of Pont Julien
First record, The bridge is named after the family of Julius Cesar (Julii), and not after Julien, who reigned three centuries later, from 333 to 336 (?), or Julian the Apostate who ruled 360-363. **
• GPS: 43.86253, 5.306678
A main cycling trail (Itinéraire Cyclotouristique) takes small roads and lanes (and some of the old Roman road):
• East - along the Calavon valley to Apt and Céreste. From Céreste, the cycling trail continues on to Carluc, Reillanne, Vachières and eventually Forcalquier in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.
• West - to Ménerbes, Oppéde-le-Vieux, Maubec, Robion, Taillades and Cavaillon.
- * "Technical" information from The Roman Remains of Southern France, by James Bromwich - Routledge
** Bridge name info from: http://www.etab.ac-caen.fr/lescourtils/provence/lesponts.htm