Monuments of Arles (World Heritage)

The cityscape of Arles is still shaped today by its Roman and medieval history. The corridors under the forum, the amphitheater, the Augustan theater and the Constantinian thermal baths of the palace complex are among the oldest Roman buildings. The Saint-Trophime cathedral, dating from the 11th to 12th centuries, is considered one of the most remarkable buildings of the French Romanesque. Vincent van Gogh spent an artistically extremely productive time in Arles in 1888/89.

Monuments of Arles: facts

Official title: Roman and Romanesque monuments of Arles
Cultural monument: Roman monuments such as the Roman circus, the amphitheater, the ancient theater, the underground crypto porticos used as storage rooms and the thermal baths of Emperor Constantine as well as the Romanesque cathedral St-Trophime within the medieval city walls
Continent: Europe
Country: France, Provence
Location: Arles, at a fork in the mouth of the Rhône
Appointment: 1981
Meaning: one of the significant examples of the harmonious fusion of ancient and medieval urban architecture

Monuments of Arles: history

1st century Foundation of Arelate (46 BC), construction of the amphitheater (Les Arènes) and the ancient theater (Théâtre Antique)
150 Roman Circus (Cirque Romain)
3rd-12th Century Roman and early Christian necrologist Alyscamps
308 Residence of Emperor Constantine the Great
11./12. Century Construction of the Romanesque cathedral of St-Trophime
1888/89 Creative period of Vincent van Gogh (1853-90), inter alia. the painting “Le pont de l’Anglois aux lavandières”, which became famous as the “Bridge of Arles”

Gallic Rome

According to computergees, one of the classic Provencal cities owes its rise from an insignificant Celto-Ligurian trading center to an ancient world metropolis to none other than Julius Caesar, for whom the city served as a military base in the fight against his rival Pompey, supported by Marseille. After winning the battle, Caesar settled the veterans of his sixth legion in Arles. The city, raised to the status of the Roman colony Colonia Julia Paterna Arelate Sextanorum, experienced an unexpected rise within a few decades and replaced Marseille as the most important economic center of Provence. At the same time, building activity began: temples, theaters, thermal baths, circus, amphitheaters, triumphal arches and cobbled streets were built. All those urban planning attributes were created.

As »Gallula Roma«, the little »Gallic Rome«, contemporary authors praised the city, which had around 100,000 residents at the time. Decumanus “(longitudinal axis), the Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville the former transverse axis, the” Cardo “. Regardless of domestic political power struggles, the reputation and wealth of Arles increased in late antiquity: Constantine III, Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, chose Arles as his residence city, in which he had a spacious palace built with a large thermal baths.

The foundation walls of the Constantine thermal baths are still preserved, but there are much more magnificent buildings that are reminiscent of the glorious Roman past, such as the mighty arena and the cemetery »Les Alyscamps«, which was once located at the gates of the city. While the sarcophagi of the Alyscamps, shaded by poplars, still exude a certain tranquility, the arena, after being built with houses in the Middle Ages, serves today as in antiquity as a place of “bread and games”. When the sand of the oval round is soaked with blood again in the Spanish corridas, one inevitably feels reminded of the Roman gladiator fights: whatever the people like is allowed.

Traces of ancient history can even be made underground, as impressively demonstrated by the monumental cryptoportiques used as granaries. Not to be forgotten is the Théâtre Antique, which so cast a spell over the French writer Gustave Flaubert, who became famous for “Madame Bovary” (1857), that he turned down the tempting offer of an erotic adventure: “Then I go with you conversed with a prostitute from the brothel across from the theater, but did not follow her into the apartments. I didn’t want to leave this poetry. ”

In the Middle Ages, the theater was used as a quarry for the construction of the Saint-Trophime cathedral, among other things. The bishop’s builders are forgiven for their lack of consideration for antiquity, as they created a perfectly shaped church in the spirit of the Romanesque, which is dedicated to the city saint of Arles. True jewels are the cloister and the west portal, which shows the believers the history of salvation in a petrified picture Bible: Joseph’s dream and the birth of Christ, the child murder of Bethlehem, Jesus, holding the book with the seven seals, the damned, their infernal Torments… The portal is admirable, but as cruel and monstrous as a Chinese nightmare, said the “master of impressionism”, Vincent van Gogh.

Monuments of Arles