Roman Buildings of Orange (World Heritage)

Orange, the Roman arausio, originated in 121 BC. On Celtic foundations. Ancient buildings still shape the cityscape today. This includes one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters, where performances still take place today. Another highlight is the Roman triumphal arch, which was probably intended as a city gate.

Roman Buildings of Orange: Facts

Official title: Amphitheater and Arc de Triomphe of Orange
Cultural monument: Roman theater with a multi-storey, 103 m long and 37 m high theater wall and an auditorium with a diameter of 119 m; In addition, a three-sided monument to the founding of the city in the form of a Roman triumphal arch
Continent: Europe
Country: France, Provence
Location: Orange, valley of the Rhône
Appointment: 1981
Meaning: one of the best preserved Roman theaters and a very fine example of a Roman monument to the founding of a city

Roman Buildings of Orange: History

35-30 BC Chr. Arausio is founded and the theater is built
AD 21-26 evidence of the city’s founding monument through inscription
15th century Friars Minor settle in the square of the Ancient Theater
1824-69 Restoration of the theater and since then theater and opera performances
1931 Excavation of the statue of the Emperor Augustus
1988 Restoration of the theater

The gateway to Provence

“The gateway to Provence is the triumphal arch of Orange, it is the most beautiful and at the same time the most forbidding gateway to the south, to the Latin world,” said Wolfgang Koeppen as he drove south along the Rhône. Strictly speaking, the well-traveled writer was wrong, because the dominant building is neither a triumphal arch, which only existed in Rome, nor a city gate, but a so-called »monument to the founding of the city«. The monument alone, impressive in its dimensions – the almost 20 meter high and almost as wide arch has three arched passages and two towering, parapet-like upper floors – symbolized not only the affiliation to the Roman Empire, but also its restored power, after the Romans had been inflicted a shameful defeat by the allied Cimbri and Teutons. The excellent state of preservation is due to the fortunate circumstance that the “Arc de Triomphe d’Orange” was transformed into a defensive fortress in the Middle Ages by means of loopholes and superstructures and was thus spared from further destruction; The first restoration work began as early as the 18th century, through which the damage and the changes caused by alterations could be removed. The relief decoration that glorifies the Roman victory over the Gauls is unusually rich: captured weapons and standard symbols next to the “barbarians” with tangled hair and long beards in chains. In the 19th century, the first restoration work began, through which the damage and the changes caused by alterations could be removed. The relief decoration that glorifies the Roman victory over the Gauls is unusually rich: captured weapons and standard symbols next to the “barbarians” with tangled hair and long beards in chains.

Like many other Roman foundations in Provence, Orange also emerged from a settlement of the Celts, who worshiped the spring deity Arausio here. Promoted by Emperor Augustus, who settled the veterans of his second legion in Orange, the city quickly developed into a rich trading center, primarily handling fine spices, fine textiles, jewelry, precious stones and papyrus, which are found on the Rhône and the parallel roads to the north of France according to constructmaterials.

Protected by a hexagonal city wall more than three kilometers long, ancient orange was considered one of the most magnificent cities in the province of Gallia Narbonensis. High above the city, on the Colline St-Eutrope, a capitol complex was even built, which included three temples, the foundations of which can still be admired today; The Romans created a spacious gymnasium as a semicircular facility with an associated temple for exercise. Of course, a theater in orange could not be missing either. During the reign of Augustus, the construction of the theater began at the foot of a small hill, which can undoubtedly be counted among the most beautiful and best-preserved structures of antiquity: The rear wall of the stage, which the Sun King Louis XIV, is particularly impressive. is said to have called “the most beautiful wall of my kingdom”. The marble statues, reliefs and other ornaments have disappeared; only the three and a half meter statue of the emperor Augustus, discovered by chance during excavations, serves as an eye-catcher in a central niche. And although the stone of the theater appears rough, discolored and weathered, this 2000 year old building gives an overwhelming impression of shine and durability. The semi-circular steps carved into the rock offered space for up to 10,000 spectators, and every word could be understood even in the top row of seats. Cleverly placed wall projections prevented unwanted echoes, while the staggered rows of seats perfected the sound reproduction and the stage platform acted as a soundboard. Only in the 19th In the 19th century, the theater, which had been misused in the Middle Ages by expanding it into a well-fortified, small town, similar to that in Arles, was restored and returned to its original purpose. Since then, alongside the famous Italian opera tenor Enrico Caruso and the diva of French theater, the »Lady of the Camellias« Sarah Bernhardt, pop greats like Pink Floyd have also appeared on the traditional stage.

Roman Buildings of Orange