Posted on Jun 21, 2010 in category

First stop today was to catch up with Sebastien Gosselin, the Director of the Musée de Beaux Arts et d' Archeologie. The museum is in the middle of a renovation job with the archaeological section itself looking like an excavation site. Sebastien had informed me earlier about the disruption to the Gallo-Roman exhibits so to help me out he had gone to the trouble of photographing the exhibits. Although it was a quick visit to pick up the CD we had a very pleasant meeting with Sebastien and time to take a quick pic!

Sebastien, a gentleman and a scholar!

In Vienne it's not hard to find evidence of a 'cultural revolution' (where some Roman values and commodities became highly fashionable). On gaining 'Latin' rights from Augustus around 30 B.C. Vienne prospered probably becoming the tax collection centre for Gaul judging by the huge warehouses built either side of the Rhone River. Vienne was quick to show its loyalty to Augustus and Rome with the building of a magnificent temple in the forum around 20-10 B.C. Later we returned to have lunch in a cafe opposite it.

The various government agencies will be spending 126,000 Euros to restore the 'Temple d'Auguste et de Livie'.

In a few days time an international jazz festival begins in Vienne. The Gallo-Roman sites become important props for the festival. The 'Jardin Archéologique de Cybele' was part of a large portico area adjoining the Gallo-Roman forum. Today a section of a stone triumphal gateway and adjoining wall back on to a small municipal park or 'jardin'. It was named after a marble statue of Cybele was found in the area.

Part of the Jazz Festival stage Section of drainage nearby Cybele sculpture (St Pierre Museum)

Yesterday I stumbled over this sculpture at Musée archéologique Saint-Pierre, a museum within a museum- one of France's oldest churches (5th-6th centuries AD). I spent the last hour before closing browsing around this archive of stone monuments and statues (sorry I didn't report it in the previous blog entry but I just ran out of steam!).

This museum was certainly a contrast from the modern Gallo-Romain Museum

At 11.00 am we had an important appointment to keep at the 'Atelier de restauration de mosaïques' located within the Saint-Romain-en-Gal Gallo-Romain Musée. However, we still had 10 minutes up our sleeves so we hiked it quickly up to see some ruins in the park beyond the public swim centre. These ruins turned out to be 'Les Thermes du Palais du Miroir' or Gallo-Roman bathhouse. Once again I saw two statues of Venus and Fortuna Tyche /Tutela (a Celtic goddess) at Saint-Pierre Museum which were both excavated from this bathhouse.

A kneeling version of Venus

Fortuna 'Tyche' syncretised or combined with Tutela, a Celtic goddess

Evelyne Chantriaux is the Director of the 'Atelier de restauration de mosaïques' or mosaic restoration workshop at the Gallo-Romain Museum. Despite her busy schedule, Evelyne generously gave up one and a half hours in an extensive tour of the workshop. We greatly appreciated her tour in English. It was a revelation to see the thorough, time-consuming, creative and at times very physical work that the restorers do here in this modern facility.

Evelyne and her staff do incredible things giving new life to poorly 'restored' mosaics or wall paintings or conserving new discoveries that are found in situ. The highly skilled team use a number of techniques that combine science, planning, great care, computer graphics and often physical effort. They all deserve medals for the job that they do for the conservation of world heritage.

Evelyne showed us how each mosaic has to be handled differently

Here is a section of a very difficult mosaic as its concrete base was at least twice as thick as most restorations. Note how levers are used to lift the mosaic. Prior to this levering job, the team has to apply layers of fabric with adhesive in order to stabilise the mosaic before it is removed either in panels or sometimes rolled up. Sometimes these rescued mosaics can be stored for years before the decision is made to restore them.

Applying the gauze to the in situ mosaic 4 years of hard 'yakka' here!

Inside one of the storage rooms.

Some of these stored mosaics cannot be displayed in museums because restorers in the past smoothed all the surfaces thus creating a false impression. The wear and tear of the mosaic is important too! In this short blog it is impossible to do justice to the intricate, detailed work of these restorers. Their work is only bettered by the original Gallo-Roman artists and craftsmen.

After lunch at the 'Temple of Augustus and Livia' we walked up the Pipet Hill to the Theatre. It was constructed in 40-50 AD and could seat 13,000 spectators. Again it was set up for the Jazz Festival. The view from the top of the theatre is fantastic.

Joe Cocker is appearing here during the Jazz Festival

To the left of the theatre a smaller Odean theatre was built but today only the shape can be made out as it was used for a quarry.

The brown semi-circular area was the Odeon (speeches, poetry)

Above the theatre was a Gallo-Roman sanctuary whose main deity is unknown. Today there stands a church and a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. We walked up the hill to the summit to take this photo.

See the Gallo-Romain Museum (bottom left) and a looooong barge going up the Rhone

On the way up the hill we discovered a derelict nunnery taken over by the State during the French Revolution and a car that also caused a revolution.

Vienne was a very prosperous and prestigious town in the Roman Empire. It bragged not only bathhouses, two theatres and an impressive forum but it also had a hippodrome for chariot races, one of the most popular pastimes. Sadly, only one thing remains, the 'Pyramide'. We ended the day with a long walk to the southern suburb of Vienne to see this structure that graced the centre island of the hippodrome.

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