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The Roman Theater of Colonia Julia Vienna (Vienne)
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member RakeInTheCache
N 45° 31.511 E 004° 52.720
31T E 646708 N 5043010
Quick Description: Today, one can see the terraces of the Vienne theatre lining the western flank of the Pipet hill (the cavea) and, below, a semi-circular space (the orchestra ) as well as a reconstruction of the wall (the proscaenium).
Location: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France
Date Posted: 10/7/2007 2:57:35 AM
Waymark Code: WM2BC1
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Chris777
Views: 148

Long Description:
At the back, the foundations of the stage and the pit for scrolling the backcloth have been preserved. The approximately 32 metre high wall (frons scaenae) which closed off the building on the city side, has disappeared.

The general layout of the monument is fairly well-known in spite of the major reconstructions carried out in the course of excavations begun in 1922. The purpose of these reconstructions was to "preserve" the edifice and help understand it as well as to permit the re-use of the ancient structure as an entertainment site.

The Vienne theatre is one of a series of "classical" theatres inspired by those built in Rome from the second half of the 1st Century BC The theatre's diameter makes it the second theatre in Gaul after the Autun theatre (148 m. diameter). Including the upper portico, it has a diameter of 129.8 m (439 Roman feet). It has the same dimensions as the Marcellus Theatre in Rome. The height of the facade has been estimated at a little more than 32m. on the north entrance side. There was room for about 13,000 people inside the building. Dated traditionally

From the Augustan Age, recent archaeological observations show that, in reality, it could be a bit later.
Starting from the Augustan Age public taste turned towards mime and pantomime, i.e. accompanied by music and dance and with numerous stage effects created using complex machinery. The actors wore masks which made each character instantly recognisable. These masks also acted as megaphones.

"The theatre was also a civic building par excellence, where the city and country people, those who had been granted citizenship or not, were summoned to meet periodically before the imperial effigies and their guarantors, mounted on the frons scaenae" (adapted from P. Gros).

The rocky flank of Pipet was hewn out to accommodate the terraces, ambulatories or circulation galleries, as well as a whole network of conduits and drains which still drain the rock today. Only the two ends of the terraces stood on radiating vaults which have now caved in.

Around a 21m. semi-circular area (the orchestra), paved with pink and yellow brechia marble there were four rows of low, deep, white marble terraces supporting pink brechia or white marble seats for the leading citizens. These terraces, which were reached by the aditus maximus and the orchestra, were separated from the rest of the cavea by a green cipolin balustrade (balteus).

Two sets of 12 and 30 narrower terraces rose above these. The spectators sat directly on these terraces which were originally all made of hard, white limestone or "choin" (hard limestone from the Jura). They have almost all been restored with masonry. These levels were reached by two vaulted ambulatories which supported the terraces with doorways (vomitoria) at regular intervals. Spectators could reach the section (cuneus) assigned to them by way of regularly placed small stairs.

The upper terraces were overlooked by two superimposed vaulted galleries which partially supported a large, peripheral portico. In the centre of this portico, on the medial axis of the theatre, stood a temple which dominated the entire cavea. The difference in level between the floor of this temple and the orchestra is 28.5m. Some people think it was dedicated to Bacchus, others to Apollo.
Much less is known about the lower part of the edifice. All that remains are the masonry foundations and the bases for the wooden floors. The wall that decorated the back of the pulpitum has been entirely rebuilt by the restorers who used, in particular, fragments of a marble frieze decorated with dionysian motifs. All that remains of the stage wall is a fragment of the central door (valva regia) in the shape of a semi-circular exedra, and the foundations of the north basilica (or foyer).

In the IVth Century AD theatre performances, condemned by the church which judged them immoral, were banned by the emperors. The abandoned buildings were sometimes occupied by refugee populations or were used as fortresses. During the excavation of the ruins of the Vienne theatre some evidence of domestic life was gathered suggesting that the edifice had been lived in temporarily. Almost all the limestone blocks used as facing as well as the marble from the stage rapidly disappeared. Some of them were re-used directly as foundations for new buildings, others were converted into lime. Moreover, traces of lime kilns were found. Only the masonry foundations and the vaulted substructures that supported the terraces remained of the ancient edifice. These remains were progressively buried beneath vegetation and were soon covered by terraced gardens. But the memory of the monument remained in local toponymy : at the end of the Middle Ages, a house built in the area was called the maison des arènes (the house of the arena) and a square at the foot of the Pipet hill was named the place du Cirou (Cirou Square) which became the place du cirque (Circus Square) in the XVIIIth Century. Because of their curved shape, the vaulted terrace substructures which were partially accessible, led people to think that the building had been circular and was an amphitheatre.

This opinion was confirmed in the reproduction of the ancient city engraved about 1829 by E. Rey, drawing teacher and curator of the Vienne Museum.

(Text taken from associated web site)
Most Relevant Historical Period: Roman Empire > 27 B.C.

Admission Fee: €2.20

Opening days/times:
From Nov - March Tu-Sa : 09:30 - 12:30 & 14:00 - 17:00 Su : 13:30 - 17:30 From April - August Mo-Su : 09:30 - 13:00 & 14:00 - 18:00 From September - October Tu - Su : 09:30 - 13:00 & 14:00 - 18:00

Web Site: [Web Link]

Condition: Completely intact or reconstructed

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