An exceptional ancient monument, the Pont du Gard has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1985 as a "testimony to human creative genius".

An exceptional heritage

With its 2000 years of existence, the Pont du Gard proudly overlooks the deep and winding  Gardon river valley. This is the most commonly accepted symbol of Roman civilisation and it has survived the centuries very much intact. Its spectacular dimensions, aerial architecture and remarkable state of conservation provoke nothing but admiration and amazement.

A stone colossus

The construction of the Pont du Gard was a genuine technical feat, requiring a thousand strong workforce over almost five years, in a tribute to the Roman Empire's dream of grandeur.
It is the highest bridge to be built during the classic period. They built one of the world’s largest wooden centring structures to construct the central arch that spans the Gardon. It is the only still-standing example of a three-tier aqueduct bridge.

Le pont du Gard, bien du patrimoine mondial

En 1985, le pont du Gard a été inscrit sur la liste des biens du patrimoine mondial par l’UNESCO (Organisation des Nations Unies pour l’Education, la Science et la Culture). Par cette inscription, le pont du Gard est reconnu au niveau mondial car il satisfait à trois critères.
C’est un :
•    Chef d’œuvre du génie créateur humain.
•    Témoignage unique et exceptionnel sur la civilisation romaine.
•    Exemple éminent d’un type de construction et d’ensemble architectural et technique, les aqueducs, illustrant une période significative de l’histoire de l’Humanité, la période romaine.

World Heritage classification ... what does it mean?

World Heritage is a designation given to places or properties around the world that are of outstanding universal value. As such, they are inscribed on the World Heritage List such that they can be protected for the enjoyment of future generations. According to the Convention, established in 1972, all cultural and/or natural sites on the World Heritage List meet at least one of the ten selection criteria set out in the "World Heritage Convention Implementation Guide". These are essential and are regularly reviewed by the Committee to keep pace with any changes to the World Heritage concept itself.

By October 2020, 194 countries had ratified the World Heritage Convention, committing themselves to the protection and management of their properties and ensuring the maintenance of their authenticity and integrity. The World Heritage list currently includes (February 2023) 1157 sites including 218 natural sites, 900 cultural sites and 39 mixed sites. France has 49 sites.
Since 2007, the Association of French World Heritage Sites has brought together the managers of the French sites included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. They are all keen to improve the quality of the protection and enhancement of their sites, and for this they contribute to reflections on French public policies and cooperate with all of the international cultural and natural sites to constitute and promote a universal heritage.

A short history of the World Heritage List and UNESCO

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It aims to encourage peace by generating international cooperation in education, science and culture. After two world wars in less than thirty years and the continued insufficiency of political and economic pacts between nations in maintaining peace, UNESCO was founded as an attempt to build a genuine lasting peace. The people of the world need to be united through cultural dialogue and mutual understanding. In 1972, the ratification of the Convention by UN member countries meant that its action plan for the conservation of sites of outstanding universal value could be implemented. The Convention encourages international cooperation and provides a framework for funding and managing the preservation of the world’s cultural and natural heritage. Thus the World Heritage List was born.

Defending cultural heritage

Heritage is our legacy from the past, which we live with today and which we will pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage is an irreplaceable source of life and inspiration. What makes the World Heritage concept exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, regardless of their location.
The question of safeguarding the human sites was first raised on the during the construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt. This was intended to mass produce electricity for the country, although it was widely understood that its construction would completely flood a significant part of the Valley, drowning a number of Southern Egypt’s Nubian monuments, including the temples of Ramses II in Abu Simbel and Philae.

As treasures of ancient Egyptian civilisation, their programmed disappearance triggered a widespread awareness of the danger faced by all of the world's heritage sites. The Egyptian and Sudanese authorities quickly appealed to the international community for help in organising a rescue operation. UNESCO responded with an exceptional campaign raising over $80 million, more than half of which was be funded by around 50 different countries. 

For several months, the main temples were dismantled, moved and then reassembled higher up in the desert, away from the future flood zone. Thanks to this colossal undertaking, technicians and scientists enabled Egypt to save its heritage from destruction. 

Durant plusieurs mois, les principaux temples furent découpés, déplacés puis réassemblés plus haut dans le désert, loin de la future zone inondable. Grâce à cette entreprise colossale, techniciens et scientifiques permirent à l’Egypte de sauver son patrimoine de la destruction. 

Following this episode, UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) began preparing a draft convention for the protection of the world’s cultural heritage.

reserving the most beautiful natural areas

By considering heritage in cultural as well as natural terms, the 1972 Convention highlights the interaction between humans and nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.
The natural sites on the list are natural monuments, geological formations and natural areas that are outstanding from a scientific, conservational or aesthetic point of view To maintain their preservation, the World Heritage Committee annually assesses the state of conservation of dozens of sites where threats to the site’s integrity may exist: the introduction of invasive alien species; the effects of climate change; the effects of intensive tourism and associated infrastructures; and the over-exploitation of natural resources. 
The next decade, 2021-2030, has been declared the "Decade of Ecosystem Restoration" by the United Nations. The French natural World Heritage sites will be contributing to this, as well as to the Sustainable Development Goals and the National Biodiversity Strategy. To learn more about the World Heritage Convention, visit the official UNESCO website