Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Arles, First Day

What I didn't realize about Arles, before we came, was just how much Roman stuff there is.  I knew there was some, of course, but for a small town, Arles has a huge amount of Roman stuff still there.

Having said that, this first picture isn't Roman, but probably medieval.  Looking at this wall near our hotel, you can see the many changes to the structure that happen as a building changes through the 500 or 1,000 years of its existence.  This is a common sight in France and Italy, but you can see it even in Brighton, which seems young, but was mentioned in the Domesday book (18 inhabitants, 1 slave, 3 ploughshares and a tax levy of 4,000 herrings).  Just look at those blocked in doors and windows. 

 We visited the Roman Theatre the first full morning we were there, as it was just a block from our hotel. Off to one side of the theatre is a kind of holding station for the jigsaw puzzle of bits and pieces they've found.  It's intriguing to walk through and find pieces that seem to go together - a relief of a horses legs on one, the head on another.  a capitol and a piece of column. 

The theatre is still used, by virtue of a modern stage put over the Roman understage area, and is being restored as an ongoing project.  The pavements between the seats and the stage are wonderfully colored stone and that's what they are working on now. There was once a wall, full of niches and doorways and columns all along the front, facing the audience. Those two pillars give some sense of the size - there were once many pillars. 

You can see some of the puddles left by the rain the day we arrived and the sun didn't appear until afternoon.  Here's some seating, taken from the same position as the above.  

The theatre was kind of incorporated into a convent in the middle ages, but that's gone, now. 

After lunch, we went to the Amphitheatre, just round the corner from the theatre.  I didn't take any pictures from the outside, alas, but here are a couple from the inside. 

The first, is from the ground floor, looking up to the arches on the second floor, through the missing floor. You wouldn't have seen this back in the day.  Isn't it amazing that those arches are still there 2000 years later.

During the upheavals of the middle ages, the Amphitheatre was converted to a fortress. The exterior walls were fortified like a walled city. The arches were filled in and 4 lookout towers were built forming 4 gates. Then, the whole place was backfilled with living space.  Very clever of the Arlesians, I think.  If you look at the picture below (which is on the second floor, where the flooring remains or has been replaced) you can see the square holes made to hold beams for the building in of homes in that period.

That was our first day, more tomorrow.


Tom said...

Thanks for the pix. I think I recognized most of the locations.

Kate said...

It is kind of amazing to think that these structures have survived 2,000 years. Re-purposed, yes, but still...!