Roman remains

Herculaneum

Located in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanic pyroclastic flows in 79 AD. Its ruins are located in the comune of Ercolano near Naples. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is famous as one of the few ancient cities that can now be seen in much of its original splendour, as well as for having been lost, along with Pompeii, Stabiae, Oplontis and Boscoreale, i ...
Founded: 7th century BCE | Location: Ercolano, Italy

Pompeii

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city near modern Naples. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, was buried under 4 to 6 m of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Many of the inhabitants were also buried before they could escape. At the time of the eruption, the town may have had some 11,000 inhabitants, and was located in an area where Romans ha ...
Founded: 7th century BCE | Location: Pompei, Italy

Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica was the seaport for the city of Rome from its founding in 335 BC until it was sacked in the 4th century AD. Today it is a major archaeological site; you can walk the streets of the old town, passing the amphitheatre, forum, shops, houses and apartments. The site is particularly noted for its mosaics and frescoes.
Founded: 335 BC | Location: Città Metropolitana di Roma, Italy

Villa Poppaea

The Villa Poppaea is an ancient Roman seaside villa situated in the ancient Roman town of Oplontis (the modern Torre Annunziata). Evidence suggests that it was owned by the Emperor Nero, and it is believed to have been used by his second wife, Poppaea Sabina, as her main residence when she was not in Rome. Like many of the other houses in the area, the villa shows signs of remodeling, probably to repair damage fro ...
Founded: 100-0 BCE | Location: Torre Annunziata, Italy

Villa dei Misteri

The Villa of the Mysteries (Villa dei Misteri) is a well-preserved suburban Roman villa on the outskirts of Pompeii, southern Italy, famous for the series of frescos in one room, which are usually thought to show the initiation of a young woman into a Greco-Roman mystery cult. These are now probably the best known of the relatively rare survivals of Ancient Roman painting. Like the rest of the Roman city of Pomp ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Pompei, Italy

Crypta Neapolitana

The Crypta Neapolitana is an ancient Roman tunnel near Naples. It was built in 37 BC, and is over 700 metres long. The tunnel passes beneath the Posillipo hill and connects Naples with the so-called Phlegrean Fields and the town of Pozzuoli along the road known as the via Domiziana. The eastern Piedigrotta entrance is now enclosed within an archaeological park, and the site of the villa of Vedius Pollio, an ...
Founded: 37 BCE | Location: Napoli, Italy

Doclea Roman Ruins

Doclea (also Dioclea) was a Roman city, the seat of the Late Roman province of Praevalitana, and an Archbishopric, which is now a Latin Catholic titular see. The Romanized Illyrian tribe known as Docleatae that inhabited the area derived their name from the city. It was the largest settlement of the Docleatae, founded in the first decade of the 1st century AD. Doclea was built to conform to the terrain. It was a large to ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Podgorica, Montenegro

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.