Discovering Arles the Museums and Roman Sites
I discovered some interesting information online about a dig that has been progressing on the opposite bank of the Rhône River (from Arles), at Trinquetaille.
Underneath an 18th-century glassworks, now a ‘monument historique,’ they have uncovered a group of Roman houses, many with mosaic floors. The fresco in the illustration was found in a first century BC house that they’ve dubbed La Maison de la Harpiste’. In the style of paintings in Pompei and Herculaneum, it’s unique in France. Continue reading here. One day the fresco will be on display at the Musee departementale d’Arles Antique.
Musée départemental Arles antique
presqu’île du cirque romain
13 635 Arles cedex.
Tel : +33 (0)4 13 31 51 03
Closed on Tuesdays
Free entry the 1st Sunday of each month
Roman Sites in Arles
Arles was once an important Roman town, a trading center with a major port. Barges with cargo from all over the Empire plied the waters of the Rhone River. Around 2,000 years ago, one of those barges sank. It lay there quietly, covered by mud until scientists surveying the river discovered it about ten years ago. You would think that a ship that old would have dissolved by then. But no! The mud had protected the wood from decay. That was the good news. The process of restoring the barge was complicated, and experts thought it might take ten years. However, they only had two years to raise, restore and showcase the barge at the Musee departementale d’Arles Antique. Read more here.
The Roman’s presence in Arles remains highly visible. The arena, constructed on three levels, remains a site for concerts and special events.
Head underground to see the cryptoportiques (old shops and storage areas) underneath the Hôtel de Ville. This site is worth a visit and a break from the heat on a hot day.
The Romans believed that the living and the dead existed in different worlds. Burials were not permitted within city limits, and roads on the outskirts of major settlements were often lined with tombstones. In the case of Arles, there were five necropolises, situated on each of the main roads leading to this commune. Alyscamps or Aliscamps in Provencal was the most famous of the five. It was Arles’ main burial ground for almost 1,500 years. Located just outside the walls of the ancient town. Although not far from the Roman arena and theatre, the burial site would have indeed been a world apart from the lively productions in those buildings.
Other Reasons to Visit Arles
Professional photographers, students and fans flock to Arles every year for the Recontres d’Arles that runs from early July through September. The theme of this image-based event changes annually, but the photographers’ creativity is always impressive.
Vincent Willem Van Gogh moved to Arles, hoping for refuge when he was ill from drink and suffering from a smoker’s cough. He arrived on 21 February 1888 and took a room at the Hôtel-Restaurant Carrel. Enchanted by the local landscape and light of the South of France, his works from the period reflect bright yellows, ultramarines and mauves. His Dutch upbringing informs his portrayals of the Arles landscape; the patchwork of fields and avenues appears flat and lacks perspective but excels in their intensity of colour.
The LUMA Foundation and the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie (ENSP) fuel the city’s artistic core. LUMA Arles, a stylish arts centre, funded by Swiss industrialist and art-lover Maja Hoffman. This was an enormous project at the ‘Parc des Ateliers’ site, the old SNCF railway sheds and shunting yards.