Roman and Romanesque
Monuments of Arles (1981)
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|Arles is a good example of the adaptation of an ancient city
to medieval European civilization. It has some impressive Roman monuments, of which the earliest – the
arena, the Roman theatre and the cryptoporticus (subterranean galleries)
– date back to the 1st century B.C.
During the 4th century Arles experienced a second golden age, as attested by the baths of Constantine and the necropolis of Alyscamps.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, Arles once again became one of the most attractive cities in the Mediterranean. Within the city walls, Saint-Trophime, with its cloister, is one of Provence's major Romanesque monuments.
It is well worth noting that one of the medieval pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain starts in Arles.
Arles (ancient Arelas or Arelate), is a city in southern France, in Bouches-du-Rhône Department, on the Rhône River, in Provence. Arles is a port (linked to the Mediterranean Sea by canal) and a farm-trade and manufacturing center. Points of interest include a Roman amphitheater, which held about 26,000 spectators; a Roman obelisk, retrieved from the Rhône River and now in the Place de la République; the ruins of a Roman theater, in which were found many works of art including the statue Venus of Arles (Louvre, Paris); the palace of the 4th century Roman emperor Constantine the Great; and the Romanesque Church of Saint Trophime. Parts of the wall around the old town also originate from Roman times.
During the first century BC, Arelas, as the city was then called, emerged as one of the chief commercial centers of the Roman Empire. An episcopal see from the 4th century until 1790, it was the site of several important ecclesiastical councils, including the Council of Arles (314), which condemned Donatism, a heretical Christian movement. After the collapse (476 ad) of the Roman Empire of the West, Arles was seized by the Visigoths and then by the Ostrogoths. In 730, while ruled by the Merovingian dynasty, it was plundered by Muslim invaders. In 879 Arles was made the seat of the kingdom of Provence, and in 933 it became the capital of the kingdom of Arles, more often called the kingdom of Bourgogne. After 1246, it was included in Provence.
The Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh was very active in Arles, creating more than 200 paintings here in 1888 and 1889.
Sources and links:
Other World Heritage Sites in France (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section France for further information on the individual properties.
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Revised 09 sep 2007