Lezoux to Vienne

Posted on Jun 19, 2010 in category

Another travel day! Our goal today is to drive to Le musée départemental de la Céramique at Lezoux, stop for lunch and a quick 'promenade' at the former Gallo-Roman spa town of Feurs; then, head for our hotel at Vienne on the Rhone River. The constant rain proved to be of little concern on the motorway apart from reducing our speed from 130 kph to 110 kph. It was only at Feurs that we struck a snag. The rain did hamper our walking tour idea at Feurs and their museum was closed on a Saturday. However, at Lezoux Ceramic Museum we managed to learn quite a bit about Gallo-Roman ceramics especially those produced in the Lezoux area.

The Museum is part of a converted 19th century ceramics factory. It was opened in 2007 and it caters for all groups of people from primary school students (presently a Japanese resident artist was in residence doing workshops with students) to two inquisitive Australian visitors.

Before After (note the kids' ceramic tiles on the tree trunks)

We were told that very few foreign tourists ever visit them. Lezoux is off the beaten track now but back in the Gallo-Roman period particularly from the late 1st century into the 2nd century AD a steady stream of oxen traffic transported sigillata pottery off to many destinations in Gaul and beyond.

What was particularly interesting was the technique used to make the highly sought after sigillata pottery. First a mould was constructed by making the required shaped vessel. Next, several stamps that had been previously carved from clay and fired were pressed skilfully into the inside of the soft clay vessel. Once fired this vessel becomes the mould for many other pots. The potter places a similar shaped, soft clay vessel into the mould, turns it on the wheel pressing it into the mould as the wheel spins using a little moisture here and there. The mould is then turned upside down releasing the completed vessel..

Lezoux 'sigillata' became smoother and more refined into the 2nd century AD


One exhibit personalised the Lezoux sigillata by displaying examples of individual potter's works. Each potter would place a stamp or graffiti his name on the base of the vessel. The first potter listed is 'Libertus' which often implies an ex-slave. He is given a key role in establishing Lezoux ware in the late 1st century AD (circa 80 until 120 AD).

A display of Libertus' work

Materni's stamp

A 2nd century AD Lezoux pottery kiln

The map above reveals the significance of Lezoux sigillata from the late 1st century into the 2nd century A.D. Along with the other main Gallic sigillata centre, La Graufesenque, Lezoux dominated this ceramic market taking over from Arezzo ware, the creator of sigillata.

After a long drive to Vienne it was time to down tools and chill out in the former territory of the Allobroges!

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