I was in France again last weekend and it was heritage weekend; Journées européennes du patrimoine. I was staying in Angers (for Levitation France) but, as always, I was looking out for places to visit, places of a Roman persuasion, and I found a cracker.
About 100km north of Angers is the small village of Jublains. Jublains may be small but it is built directly on top of a Roman civitas, Noviodunanum, so there are lots of fantastic standing remains as well as a Roman museum.
This being the case, it was a prime target on the list. Unfortunately, as is the way with small rural villages, getting there by public transport is fiendish. Nevertheless, where’s there’s a will (and BlaBlaCar), there’s a way.
I arrived at the north end of the village where there are the remains of a large temple and sanctuary.
The lower courses of the porticoed peribolus (courtyard) wall survive, along with some traces of the supporting buttresses, a pool in an external annex and traces of the western gate.
Inside the peribolus is the temple itself, which was reached via steps up. The stone and brick-work remains to a greater height and it’s possible to make out the platform and the internal cela where the rituals were performed.
Excavations at the temple site suggest that this may have been the location of an earlier, La Tène ritual site, although evidence is relatively scant. There were no inscriptions relating to the Roman temple found but here was an abundance of ritually deposited fibulae and pipe-clay Venus figurines, along with fragments of a pipe-clay seated mother goddess
It seems that the local council is keen to promote its claim to fame, the extensive Roman remains, and ensure that they are as accessible as possible (to car drivers in any case), as there is a walking trail throughout the village, making all the visible archaeology very easy to find. Parts of the route follow the roads of the Roman town’s grid street-plan.
There are workshops in the artisanal quarter.
These may represent some of the earliest settlers in the Roman town, possibly dating from the Augustan period.
There are the remains of a bathhouse under the church, although only the frigidarium (cold room) is accessible.
In the centre, the impluvium (pool) is beautifully lined with schist tiles, many of which are still intact.
The church was actually built out of the bathhouse, utilising the walls and parts of the foundations.
A few steps away from the church are the remains of two theatres, built into a natural slope.
The earlier, first-century theatre (in red below) was roughly circular with internal semi-circular buttresses. The second theatre (in black below), built on the same site, is a d-shaped layout with regular cavea (seating sections) and scalae (stairways).
As part of the heritage weekend, a production of Aeschylus’ Suppliants was being performed at the theatre and my visit coincided with some last-minute preparations.
And so to the largest and most striking Roman structure in the village.
It looks for all the world like a Saxon Shore Fort but we’re nowhere near the coast. It’s enormous and well-built, and yet Jublains spent much of its history as a bit of a back-water, relatively under-populated for much of the Roman period and superseded by Le Mans. It’s so random.
The site is actually a little less square than the model but you get the idea.
The layout, from the outside in, involves a thick outer wall with regular external bastions, an earthen bank and ditch (only the bank is visible today), an inner fortified building with corner towers, and two bathhouses.
Here is part of the external wall. Look at this #wallporn! And it’s positively bastion-tastic!
The site was built over the period of about a century, with the internal buildings dating from the early third-century, followed by the inner earthwork, probably from the late third-century, and finally the outer rampart, which dates from the end of the third-/early fourth-century. The purpose seems to have been altered during this time with it finally functioning as a fortified storage enclosure, possibly a military supply depot. The defenses were probably a response to the invasions by Germanic tribes in the 270s.
The external wall, with bastions, is faced primarily with rectangular/sub-square blocks, as you’d expect, but, weirdly, there are also these shaped and interlocking blocks.
These don’t look like most of the Roman #wallporn you see around so I can’t offer any particular explanation for them but, in any case, these elements are beautifully well-made.
The internal structure, which may have been the granary building, features some lovely #portalporn (new #) alongside the #wallporn.
Excavations continue in Jublains, so this is a developing story.