Nîmes a little bit Provencal but with a soul as Languedocien as cassoulet, is graced by some of the Europe’s best preserved Roman buildings; Most famous are les Arènes, an amphitheatre reminiscient of the Colosseum in Rome and the Maison Carrée, a 1st century temple. Founded by the emperor Augustus, receiving its water from a Roman aqueduct system that included the Pont du Gard, an awesome arched bridge.
Almost everything including traffic revolves around Les Arènes. North of the amphitheatre, the fan-shaped, largely pedestrian’s old city is bounded by boulevard
Inspired by the temples of Apollo and Mars Ultor in Rome, the Maison Carrée charms visitors with its harmonious proportions. The only ancient temple to be completely preserved, the Maison Carrée measures 26 metres long by 15 metres wide and 15 metres high.
The ceiling of the pronaos (entrance to the temple) dates from the early 19th century and the current door was constructed in 1824.
It is one of the expressions of the new regime introduced by the Emperor Augustus. He surrounded himself with his imperial family and created new sites for the staging of special events and to serve as an expression of the public authority. Monuments, inscriptions, statues and portraits and architectural décor all describe, each in their own language, the actions and evolution of the new regime. The Maison Carrée of Nîmes was part of this new political state of affairs.
The Maison Carrée owes its exceptional level of preservation to the fact that it was constantly in use from the 11th century. It has since served as a consular house, stables, apartments and even as a church. After the French Revolution, it became the headquarters for the first prefecture of the Gard region, and was then transformed into departmental archives.
he Amphitheatre of Nîmes is a perfect illustration of the degree of perfection attained by Roman engineers in designing and constructing this type of extremely complex building. It demonstrates perfect symmetry: oval-shaped, it measures 133 metres long and 101 metres wide, with an arena of 68 by 38 metres. 21 metres high, its exterior façade comprises two floors of sixty superimposed arches and an attic, separated by a cornice. At the top, pre-drilled stones were positioned to overhang so that long poles could be hung over the arena. A huge canvas canopy was then attached to these poles, thereby providing protection for the spectators against the sun and bad weather. Originally, all the arcades on the ground floor, separated by Tuscan pilasters, were open to act as entrances or exits.
There are certainly bigger Roman amphitheatres, but this one is the best preserved of all of them.
The stone used comes from quarries at Roquemaillère and Baruthel, located near Nîmes.
PONT DU GARD
The Pont du Gard is a three-level stone aqueduct crossing the Gardon river valley, about 25 km west of Avignon. Built over 2000 years ago, in 19 BC, by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the son-in-law of Augustus.
The Pont du Gard was added to UNESCO's list of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.