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World Heritage # 10: Triumphal Arch and Orange Theater

As part of a series specially devoted to French sites recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO, we invite you to discover one by one the exceptional French destinations, preserved as heritage of humanity. We continue this series with one of the sites recognized in 1981, the triumphal arch and the Orange theater, reflections of the glory of the Western Roman Empire.

Din the Rhône valley, the Orange theater is a precious witness of Roman antiquity. It is indeed one of the best preserved Roman theaters in Europe. The building is also, with the arenas of Nîmes and the Pont du Gard, one of the most beautiful legacies of Imperial Rome. In the old days, the Orange region experienced one of the bloodiest battles of the conquest of Gaul and northern Europe. The veterans of the XNUMXth Gallic Legion then founded the Roman colony of Orange there. Today it has become a magnificent open-air museum. The extraordinary state of preservation of ancient theater and Arc de Triomphe now make this city a major destination for heritage lovers.

The ancient theater of Orange

Built in the first century, the ancient theater of Orange is a jewel of antiquity. The imposing façade wall, 103 meters long and 36 meters high, is the best preserved in the entire Roman Empire. It thus testifies to the ambition of the builders for this Roman colony. The decorations, marbles, sculptures and columns honored the glory of the Emperor. Right in the center, at the top of the stage wall, the statue of Emperor Augustus still sits in the seat. Louis XIV said of this monumental wall that it was " the most beautiful wall of his kingdom ". The bleachers, once sheltered by a fabric awning, could once accommodate up to 9 spectators. They were divided there according to their social class.

Orange Theater

Orange Theater

With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the building was finally abandoned. The steps are gradually buried under a thick layer of sand. Paradoxically, it will contribute to the preservation of the site. In the Middle Ages, houses were then built at the foot of the wall. The locations of the beams are also always visible on the wall. It was not until the XNUMXth century that the bleachers were brought to light again. Prosper Merimee will do everything in its power to have the monument classified and thus guarantee its preservation.

Check out this short video highlighting the complete structure of the theater under antiquity.

The triumphal arch

At the entrance to the city, the Roman triumphal arch of Orange is one of the most beautiful provincial triumphal arches from the time of Augustus. Built between the year 10 and the year 25, its bas-reliefs retrace the scenes of battles. They bear witness to the fighting which led to the establishment of Pax Romana. The monument is a symbol of the triumph of Roman imperialism. It was first dedicated to the glory of the veterans of the XNUMXth Gallic Legion, then to Tiberius.

Orange triumphal arch

Orange triumphal arch

Orange today

From now on, the theater is once again hosting performances. It has become a Mecca for classical music and opera. Each year, the largest lyric art festival in France, the Chorégies attract a large crowd. Many other shows, concerts and plays are organized there each year. The acoustics of the premises are of very high quality.

To discover the sumptuous ancient remains of Orange and the city seen from the sky, do not miss this video.