Prehistoric and archaeological sites in France

Arles Amphitheatre

The two-tiered Roman amphitheatre is probably the most prominent tourist attraction in the city of Arles, which thrived in Roman times. Built in 90 AD, the amphitheatre was capable of seating over 20,000 spectators, and was built to provide entertainment in the form of chariot races and bloody hand-to-hand battles. Today, it draws large crowds for bullfighting as well as plays and concerts in summer. The building measure ...
Founded: 90 AD | Location: Arles, France

Arles Roman Theatre

Arles Roman Theatre was built in the time of Augustus and. It had a capacity of seating for 8,000 on 33 tiers of steps. In the early Middle Ages the theater was used as a quarry, and with the material it provided the town wall was erected. Of the rear wall of the stage only a few stumps of pillars and two more or less complete columns remain. Since the theater is now used again during the summer it is protected on the out ...
Founded: 90 AD | Location: Arles, France

Thermes de Cluny

The Thermes de Cluny are the ruins of Gallo-Roman thermal baths lying in the heart of Paris" 5th arrondissement. The present bath ruins constitute about one-third of a massive bath complex that is believed to have been constructed around the beginning of the 3rd century. The best preserved room is the frigidarium, with intact architectural elements such as Gallo-Roman vaults, ribs and consoles, and fragments of original d ...
Founded: c. 200 AD | Location: Paris, France

Arena of Nîmes

The Arena of Nîmes is a Roman amphitheatre built around AD 70. It was remodelled in 1863 to serve as a bullring. The Arenas of Nîmes is the site of two annual bullfights during the Feria de Nîmes, and it is also used for other public events. The building encloses an elliptical central space 133 m long by 101 m wide. It is ringed by 34 rows of seats supported by a vaulted construction. It has a capacity of 16,300 specta ...
Founded: 70 AD | Location: Nîmes, France

Arles Cryptoporticus

The cryptoporticus (covered corridor or passageway) of Arles, dating from the 1st century BC was built as foundation for the forum, which has since been replaced by the Chapel of the Jesuit College and the City Hall. Three double, parallel tunnels arranged in the form of a U are supported by fifty piers. Masons' marks on the stonework indicate that it was built by Greeks, probably from Marseille. Similar structures in Nar ...
Founded: 0-100 BC | Location: Arles, France

Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River in southern France. The bridge is part of the Nîmes aqueduct, a 50-kilometre system built in the first century AD to carry water from a spring at Uzès to the Roman colony of Nemausus (Nîmes). Because of the uneven terrain between the two points, the mostly underground aqueduct followed a long, winding route that called for a bri ...
Founded: 40-60 AD | Location: Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

Thermae of Constantine

The Thermae of Constantine (Baths of Constantine), the Roman bathing complex, dates from the 4th century AD. Of the once-extensive series of buildings, which resembled a palace, only the Caldarium (warm bath) and parts of the Hypocaust (underfloor heating) and the Tepidarium (warm air room) remain. The Thermae of Constantine has been listed as World Heritage Sites since 1981.
Founded: 300-400 AD | Location: Arles, France

Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls

The Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls was part of the federal sanctuary of the three Gauls dedicated to the cult of Rome and Augustus celebrated by the 60 Gallic tribes when they gathered at Lugdunum (Lyon). The amphitheatre was built at the foot of the La Croix-Rousse hill at what was then the confluence of the Rhône and Saône. Excavations have revealed a basement of three elliptical walls linked by cross-wall ...
Founded: 0-100 BC | Location: Lyon, France

Maison Carrée

The Maison Carrée is one of the best preserved Roman temple façades to be found in the territory of the former Roman Empire. In about 4-7 AD, the Maison carrée was dedicated or rededicated to Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar, grandsons and adopted heirs of Augustus who both died young. The building has undergone extensive restoration over the centuries. The Maison Carrée is an example of Vitruvi ...
Founded: 4-7 AD | Location: Nîmes, France

Cemenelum

The Roman city of Cemenelum was founded in the 1st century AD as a staging post for Roman troops in the Alpes Maritime region and it later became the regional capital. Favorably located, Cemenelum was chosen as the principal seat of the province of Alpes Maritimae by Augustus in 14 BC. Later, the Romans settled further inland, on the opposite side of the river Paillon. Remains of the town on the Hill of Cimiez date to the ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Nice, France

Porte Mars

Porte Mars is an ancient Roman triumphal arch in Reims. It dates from the third century AD, and was the widest arch in the Roman world. The arch stands 32 metres long and 13 metres high. It was named after a nearby temple to Mars. The arch has many highly detailed carvings on its exterior and on the ceilings of its three passageways. Local folklore says that the inhabitants of Rheims built the arch in gratitude when the ...
Founded: 200-300 AD | Location: Reims, France

Fourvière Roman Theatre

The Roman theatre is a Roman ancient structure in Lyon built on the hill of Fourvière, which is located in the center of the Roman city. The theatre was built in two steps: around 15 BC, a theatre with a 90 m diameter was built next to the hill. At the beginning of the 2nd century, the final construction added a last place for the audience. The diameter is 108 m, and there were seats for 10,000 people. Having been well ...
Founded: 15 BC | Location: Lyon, France

Arènes de Lutèce

The Arènes de Lutèce are among the most important remains from the Gallo-Roman era in Paris (known in antiquity as Lutetia, or Lutèce in French), together with the Thermes de Cluny. Lying in what is now the Quartier Latin, this amphitheater could once seat 15,000 people, and was used to present gladiatorial combats. Constructed in the 1st century AD, this amphitheater is considered the longest of its ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Paris, France

Temple of Diana

The so-called Temple of Diana was part of the Roman sacred complex but it was not a temple, rather it was a library that originally faced onto a portico that enclosed much of the spring sanctuary. The date is uncertain; some scholars suggest the first century, others the second. It was used as a church from the Middle Ages till the 16th century when it was damaged in the Wars of Religion.
Founded: 0-200 AD | Location: Nîmes, France

Carnac Stones

Carnac stones are an exceptionally dense collection of megalithic sites around the village of Carnac, consisting of alignments, dolmens, tumuli and single menhirs. More than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones were hewn from local rock and erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany, and are the largest such collection in the world. Most of the stones are within the Breton village of Carnac, but some to the east are within ...
Founded: 4500 - 3300 BC | Location: Carnac, France

Cryptoporticus

The Cryptoporticus of Reims is is a very well preserved third century AD Roman passageway. At the time, Reims was a Gallo-Roman town known as Durocortorum. Like other structures of this kind, the Cryptoporticus of Reims was a semi-subterranean arched passageway, the roof of which would have been a walkway. It would have been one of three such passageways surrounding the forum of Durocortorum. The Cryptoporticus of Reims ...
Founded: 200-300 AD | Location: Reims, France

Glanum

Glanum was an oppidum, or fortified town in present day Provence, founded by a Celto-Ligurian people called the Salyes in the 6th century BCE. It became officially a Roman city in 27 BCE and was abandoned in 260 AD. It is particularly known for two well-preserved Roman monuments of the 1st century BC, known as les Antiques, a mausoleum and a triumphal arch (the oldest in France). Celtic Age Between the 4t ...
Founded: 600-500 BCE | Location: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France

Temple of Augustus and Livia

Temple d"Auguste et de Livie is a well-preserved Roman place of worship constructed around 10 BC and dedicated to Rome and Augustus. Built on the holy area of the forum, its was converted into a church at the beginning of the 5th century. The building was restored in between 1823 and 1853.
Founded: 10 BC | Location: Vienne, France

Roman Bridge

The Roman bridge in Sommières is 190m long. It was built on the instructions of Emperor Tiberius at the start of the 1st century. It was restored in the 18th century. At the town end of the bridge is the gothic town gate known as the "Tour de l"Horloge". Only 7 of the 19 arches can be seen, the others lie beneath the town where they act as cellars.
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Sommières, France

Puymin

The Roman ruins of Vaison-la-Romaine are among some of the most important in France. Easily accessible, the two main sites that are open to the public - Puymin and La Villasse - can be found in the town centre, on each side of the tourist office. At the Puymin site, you stroll through the heart of a magnificent quarter of the ancient town. There you can see the vestiges of beautiful patrician homes: the 2000 m² House of ...
Founded: 0-100 BC | Location: Vaison-la-Romaine, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.