Roman Sites in France

Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains

The Basilica of Saint-Pierre-Aux-Nonnains is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world still standing. Erected sometime in the 4th century AD, it was originally part of a Roman-era spa when Divodurum, the former name of Metz, was a major military and trade center along the Germanic frontier. Specifically it was used as a pagan gymnasium when Christianity in Western Europe was still in its infancy. It was one of th ...
Founded: 4th century AD | Location: Metz, 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

Vaison-la-Romaine Roman Bridge

The Roman Bridge at Vaison-la-Romaine (Pont romain de Vaison-la-Romaine) is a Roman bridge over the river Ouvèze in the southern French town of Vaison-la-Romaine. The bridge was built by the Romans in the 1st century AD, with a single arch spanning 17.20 m. It is still in use, and has survived severe flooding that swept away some more recent bridges.
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Vaison-la-Romaine, France

Roman Theatre

The Roman theatre in Vienne was built around 40-50 AD and is considered to be one of the largest theatres in Roman Antiquity with a capacity of 11500 seats and a diameter of 130 metres. In the 2nd century it was double sized by a second smaller theater, the odeon, which was built nearby on the southern slope of the ravine of Saint-Marcel. The annual Vienne Jazz Festival has been held on the ancient theatre since 1980. 
Founded: 40-50 AD | Location: Vienne, France

Alyscamps Necropolis

The Alyscamps is a large Roman necropolis, one of the most famous necropolises of the ancient world. Roman cities traditionally forbade burials within the city limits. It was therefore common for the roads immediately outside a city to be lined with tombs and mausoleums; the Appian Way outside Rome provides a good example. The Alyscamps was Arles' main burial ground for nearly 1,500 years. It was the final segment of the ...
Founded: 300-400 AD | Location: Arles, France

Archeological Garden of Cybèle

Jardin de Cybèle park presents the complicated remains of a portion of the Gallo-Roman city including the arcades of the forum portico, the wall of a municipal assembly hall, and houses and terraces.
Founded: 27 BC | Location: Vienne, France

Tropaeum Alpium

The Tropaeum Alpium ('Victory Monument of the Alps'), was built by the Romans for the emperor Augustus to celebrate his decisive victory over the ancient tribes who populated the Alps. The monument"s remains are in the commune of La Turbie, a few kilometers from the Principality of Monaco. The Trophy was built c. 6 BC in honor of the emperor Augustus to celebrate his definitive victory over ...
Founded: 6 BC | Location: La Turbie, France

Théâtre Antique

Théâtre Antique is a Roman age a mphitheatre in Vaison-la-Romaine, near other significant Roman ruins. It was built around the year 20 AD, due to the marble statue of the Emperor Tiberius was found in front of the royal entrance to the Theatre. It is thought that the stage wall came to 25 meters high, with a depth of 8 meters and a width of 23 meters. In 1912, many sculptures were found in the twelve pits which had been ...
Founded: 20 AD | Location: Vaison-la-Romaine, France

Tour Magne

The Tour Magne, or the Great Tower, is the only remnant of the ancient Augustan fortifications. Standing at the highest point of the Nïmes, Mont Cavalier, it overlooks the entire plain and is a focal point for all means of communication. The tower was originally a dry-stone oval tower, with a maximum height of 18m and already part of a rampart. A structure that was both prestigious and strategic, it represented sanc ...
Founded: around 0 AD | Location: Nîmes, France

Château de Brest

The Château de Brest is one of the largest roadsteads (sheltered area outside a harbor) in the world. From the Roman castellum to Vauban"s citadel, the site has over 1700 years of history, holding right up to the present day its original role as a military fortress and a strategic location of the highest importance. It is thus the oldest castle in the world still in use. The structure"s heterogeneous archi ...
Founded: 200 AD | Location: Brest, France

La Villasse

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. At la Villasse there is a Roman street leading to more baths, and the Maison au Buste d’Argent, an impressive villa with mosaic floors and its own baths.
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Vaison-la-Romaine, France

Saint-Romain-en-Gal

On the border of the Rhône river, the archaeological site of Saint-Romain-en-Gal is home to the Gallo-Roman remains of an ancient district of Vienne. Its museum recounts the ancient history of Vienne and boasts a magnificent collection of mosaics. Saint-Romain-en-Gal is one of the largest Gallo-Roman sites in France. The classified site contains more than 3 hectares, where are located the remains of residential and ...
Founded: 0-300 AD | Location: Vienne, France

Lumone Tomb

Lumone Tomb is the only remaining vestige of the Roman way station Lumone. The front is in three vaulted arches and traces of fresco decoration are still visible. The tomb was built in the 1st century AD as a way station at the junction of the Via Aurelia and the Via Julia Augusta, and forms part of the Via Julia Augusta archaeological trail.
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France

Fréjus Roman Amphitheatre

Fréjus Roman Amphitheatre was built at the end of the 1st century AD. This structure, made of small tiles of local green sandstone, could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators. It most likely hosted gladiator fights and wild beast hunts. Today, this building comes to life every summer: large concerts, dancefloors and various performances form a rich and diverse program.
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Fréjus, France

Roman Bridge

The Roman Bridge at Saint-Thibéry was segmental arch bridge on the Via Domitia in southern France. The structure is dated to the reign of emperor Augustus (30 BC – 14 AD). The ancient bridge had nine arches with spans of 10–12 m. The roadway rested on wide piers, which were protected on both sides by arched floodways and large cutwaters. The original length of the structure is estimated as 150 m, its ro ...
Founded: 30 BC to 14 AD | Location: Saint-Thibéry, France

Roman Pyramid

The Roman Pyramid in Vienne is an emblematic building of the architectural heritage of the city together with the Roman Theatre. It is an unique remain of a Roman circus, where racing took place. The pyramid was the central building of the Roman 'circus maximus'. The 25 meters high obelisk stood in the center of the sand track. Its location on an axial platform (Spina) was confirmed by excavations in the nineteenth an ...
Founded: 100-200 AD | Location: Vienne, France

Gennes Amphitheatre

Remains of the Gallo-Roman amphitheatre date from the 2th century AD. The venue built for gladiator and huntings shows had originally seats for 5000 spectators.
Founded: 2nd century AD | Location: Gennes, France

Séviac Gallo-Roman Villa

Set on a hilltop surrounded by vineyards and cypresses, the Gallo-Roman villa of Séviac was a luxurious residence, spread over almost 6500m2. It is today one of the largest Gallo-Roman villas known in the south-west of France. The villa was built in the 2nd century AD and reconstructed in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Later in the 8th and 9th centuries the place was used for a church, burials and necropolis. The villa is ...
Founded: 2nd century AD | Location: Séviac, France

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.