Step Back in Time a Visit to Ancient Glanum in St Remy de Provence
Reflections on the Past
There is no need to enter the Glanum archaeological site, located just outside the centre of St Remy de Provence, to view two well-preserved Roman structures. Known as “Les Antiques” these monuments – the Mausoleum and the oldest triumphal arch in France – were classified as national monuments in 1840.
The Mausoleum reaches a height of 18M (60 feet) stretching like a needle towards the cobalt sky. The Mausoleum (Le Mausolée) constructed in 30-20 BC was a funeral monument for a local citizen who fought with Caesar’s army and received honorary Roman citizenship as a result. The inscription reads, “Sextius, Lucius, Marcus, fils de Caius, de la famille des Julii, à leurs parents.” Degraded by the elements and the passage of time the historical depictions of Roman triumphs on the sides of the monument were copied and replaced in 2007-08.
The Arc de Triomphe, built in 10-25 AD is now 8M (26 feet) high, it would have been taller at time of construction with all its decorative embellishments at the top. This municipal arch, the former gateway to the Glanum community, is a smaller version of the majestic one found in the city of Orange.
Even as persistent motorised traffic rushes by on the D5, try to take a moment to reflect and imagine the previous footprint and former glory of this ancient settlement.
Glanum a Building Project
Evidence uncovered from archaeological excavations, which started in 1921, confirm Glanum was built in three phases. Limestone quarried nearby in the Alpilles was the primary construction material for the buildings and monuments.
Glanum I, the initial settlement by a Celtic tribe, the Salyens, dates from the Iron Age about 500BC. Their choice of the site Glanum was deliberate once they discovered a natural spring water source that they believed offered healing powers. The Glanum site provided its inhabitants’ ready access to water, building materials and a raised position backed by towering cliffs for some protection against attackers.
Roman authority and Teutonic military occupation punctuated the time-frame for Glanum II (2nd century BC); this was not a period of expansion. In the final phase, Glanum III (1BC to 260AD), the powerful Roman influence is evident as the early colony structures gave way to grander public buildings, which included a forum and public baths. Glanum the former Roman oppidum, protected by its fortified walls, housed a flourishing community. In 260AD, the Franks destroyed Glanum, and the population was forced to resettle on the valley floor, giving rise to St Remy de Provence.
When the last inhabitants fled, stone from the Glanum site was used to build some of the original foundations in St Remy de Provence. The place was mostly left to rot as the ancient sewers and drains clogged with sediment. Excavations and conservation work occurred in several phases and continue today. Although Glanum was significantly smaller than other Roman cities like Nimes, Orange and Arles the village was a prominent centre of Roman culture.
Glanum Visit Need to Know
Glanum is easy to navigate for a brief historical excursion. Head directly south of St Remy de Provence on the D5 road where there is a large unpaved parking area. However, the site also is easily accessible on foot from the centre of town. When you visit, make sure to walk all the way up to the highest point on the site, for the panoramic views of St Remy and the Rhône Valley to the north.
Site archéologique de Glanum
Avenue Vincent Van Gogh
Tel: +33 (0)4 90 92 23 79
Hours: The hours and opening days change during the year. Please check the website for specifics. From April 1st- September 30th the site is open every day from 9.30-18.00
Eats: There is a small restaurant on site, for drinks and light snacks – only open in the summer months.
A version of this article was previously published on Ginger and Nutmeg.