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Nimes: splendid Roman monuments

Nimes is a city of about 145,000 inhabitants, the capital of the Gard department, in the new region of Occitania (formerly Languedoc-Roussillon). The city is located 40 km from Avignon and 30 km from Arles, at the foot of the Guarrigues.

The city, the Roman Nemausus from the Augustan era, was an important center during the Roman Empire. Located along the Via Domitia, a road that connected Italy to Spain. Nimes was one of the most important commercial centers of Roman Gaul. The Roman colony of Nemausus was founded in 28 BC. near a Celtic village which was soon absorbed by the new city.

The city grew and was enriched with splendid monuments and was surrounded by a wall (16 BC), soon becoming one of the richest cities in Gaul. Due also to its position along the Via Domitia, the main road of communication between northern Italy and Spain, Nimes, in the imperial era, reached a population of 20,000 inhabitants. The original name given to it by the Romans was: “Colonia Julia Augusta Nemausus Volcarum Aremecorum”.

Its past wealth can still be imagined today by observing the remains of the buildings of the Roman city. Including the marvelous Maison Carrée, the superb Amphitheater, and the Pont du Gard, the city’s aqueduct whose most suggestive remains are located a few kilometers from Nimes.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: WHAT TO VISIT IN NIMES

The two most important buildings in the city which alone justify the visit of Nimes are the Amphitheater or Arènes and the Maison Carrée. Nimes is an important tourist destination in the south of France. The city preserves important artistic testimonies from the Roman era. Among which the majestic Roman Amphitheater (les Arènes) stands out, built between the 1st and 2nd century AD, transformed into a fortress during the Middle Ages and today it hosts shows and bullfights. Another spectacular building is the Maison Carrée. A Corinthian-style temple built by Marco Vespasiano Agrippa in 19 BC and in excellent condition.

THE ROMAN AMPHITHEATER

The Amphitheater of Nimes (Arènes), twin of that of Arles, is considered one of the best preserved in the world. In fact, it is still used for bullfights. It was built around the 1st century AD, and is a two-level building with 60 arches on each level. The structure measures 133 meters long, 101 meters wide and is 21 meters high, inside it could accommodate 21,000 people.

THE MAISON CARRÉE

The Maison Carrée is one of the most beautiful Roman temples in France. It was built around 16 BC. and consecrated to the cult of the emperor and his nephews Gaius and Lucius Caesar. It has a rectangular plan of 26 meters by 15 meters with six front columns. Today the building houses a museum of Roman antiquities which also conserves a huge statue of Apollo.

OTHER ROMAN AND MEDIEVAL MONUMENTS

Of the Roman walls, 6 kilometers long and reinforced by 14 towers, two gates remain, the Porte Auguste and the Porte de France, and the Tour Magne, a tower, 32 meters high, located on the hill overlooking Nîmes.

Interesting buildings from the Roman period are the Tour Magne (the only one left of the 30 towers of the Roman city walls (15 BC)), the Castellum Aquae or Castellum Divisorium (terminal point of the Pont du Gard aqueduct) and the Gate of August (monumental entrance to the city on the Via Domitia). Another Roman monument is the Temple of Diana whose ruins are located in the Fontana Gardens.

Of the medieval era are the Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame et St.-Castor. On the slope of the Mont Cavalier hill, there is the splendid eighteenth-century Fontana garden.

MUSEUMS

The Beaux-Arts Museum, which houses numerous paintings by Italian, French, Flemish and Dutch artists. Another interesting museum is the Archaeological Museum (Musée Archéologique). Inside the old bishop’s palace is the Vieux Nîmes Museum. In the city there are also the Museum of Taurine Culture and the Museum of Natural History. Inside the Maison Carrée is the Musée des Antiques with pieces of Gaul-Roman archeology.

Finally to report the works of modern architecture in the city. Including the Carré d’Art museum of modern art and media library designed by Norman Forster in 1986. The Nemausus, a post-modern residential structure created by Jean Nouvel. The hemicycle-shaped palace built by Kisho Kurokawa.

TO VISIT IN THE SURROUNDINGS: A few kilometers from Nimes, in the direction of Avignon, do not miss a visit to the Pont Du Gard, the most beautiful and famous Roman aqueduct in France.

The climate of Nimes.

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