Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Glanum, Les Antiques

Glanum, Les Antiques

“Les Antiques” is the local name for two substantial Roman structures at the lower end of Glanum. photo credit:Marc Ryckaert

These are respectively a mausoleum and a triumphal arch. The arch is at the point where the road from Glanum and the main east-west road from Italy crossed. The mausoleum is all that remains from the Glanum cemetery.

The arch is looking less triumphant than its original incarnation. Go to Orange if you want to see a really first rate arch. But the arch and the mausoleum both have some nice stone carving.

“Les Antiques” is a site that was never lost, mention of it can be found throughout the Middle Ages, and it was once the sort of spot travelers on the Grand Tour would stop at. But it has an odd feel to it. For one thing the stonework does not represent any specific event. It appears to be just generic Roman soldiers lording it over generic barbarians. So it is the equivalent of Roman stock footage.

The site also has a detached feel to it. It is separated from Glanum proper by a busy modern road, and in fact it is next door to the car park for the site. The archway gapes wide, but beyond it there is no sign of the road that once went through it….just a ravine that one assumes is the result of significant post Roman erosion.

The site has additionally suffered over the years from looting, as it was yet another of the places where Nostradamus cryptically hinted at buried treasure. Nostradamus lived just up the road in St. Remy, and knew the site well.

Another undoubted visitor to the site regrettably must have been unimpressed with it. Just across the road, in a medieval building partially made of robbed out stones from Glanum, Vincent Van Gogh spent the most troubled, but also the most artistically productive year of his life there. Here is a listing of the paintings he did while confined at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum. The place was of course named for the mausoleum shown above.

But did Van Gogh bother to do a single canvas depicting any Roman relics? No he did not. And the worlds of art and of archeology are the poorer for it.

Tips to visit. “Les Antiques” are just sitting by the side of the road. Supposedly you pay to park but there was nobody collecting money. It is an easy walk, but with narrow road shoulders, from St. Remy about a mile away. The Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum is also open to visitors. There is an admission fee. You can see some interesting depictions of scenes as Van Gogh saw them and compare to the current day. There is also a Roman quarry near the site. In the center is an isolated pillar 23 meters high. It is felt that Roman stone cutters left a section au natural to show how much stone they had excavated over the years.