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Things to See in the Languedoc:   Historic Cities:   Nîmes

Nīmes is the capital of the Gard Département. It lies south-southwest of Lyon, at the foot of barren hills (the Monts Garrigues) to the north and west of the city. It is stands upon a vine growing plain, in the Cévennes area extending to the south and east. Between Provence, the Camargue and the Cévennes mountains, this is the heart of Roman France.

The city was named after Nemausus, the genie of a sacred fountain. The capital of a Gaulish tribe, it was annexed in 121 BC to Rome. The emperor Augustus founded a new city here, giving it privileges that allowed it to prosper. The town became one of the richest in Gaul during its Roman period.

The city’s coat of arms shows a crocodile chained to a palm tree - the device dates back to Roman times and commemorates the defeat of Mark Anthony on the Nile by the Emperor Augustus. The connection is that Augustus rewarded his legionaries with grants of land in the Roman colony here.

The city was plundered by the Germanic Vandals in the 5th century. Later it was occupied by the Moors (Saracens], who were driven out in 737. The town was acquired by the counts of Toulouse in the 10th century. In 1229 it was annexed to France.

In the Middle Ages wool and silk industries brought wealth to the city. It was here that a particularly adaptable type of serge material originated. Serge “De Nîmes”, hence denim, found its way to America in 1870.

During the Reformation Nīmes became largely Protestant. In 1598, the Edict of Nantes conferred upon French Protestants a degree of religious freedom. After the Edict was revoked in 1685 the city suffered once again from persecution.

Jean Auguste Robert, a communist militant, was executed by guillotine at Nîmes on April 22nd 1943 during the Second World War. On the same day Vinicio Faïta another communist militant and antifascist, was also guillotine here. Resistance Companies were named after them: Compagnie 430 became Maquis Jean Robert and Compagnie 4307 became Maquis Faïta.

Today's weather and weather forecast for Nîmes, Languedoc, France. Click here for to open a website giving more information, in a new windowNīmes is known for its Roman remains, most of which are in an excellent state of preservation.

Some things worth seeing are listed below:

Les Arènes (an amphitheatre). The amphitheatre is one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in existence. It was probably built in the 1st century AD, possibly around 1 AD. It has an elliptical configuration measuring 440 by 330 feet and 69 feet high and built of large stones from a nearby quarry, put together without mortar. It sat around 24,000 spectators. Its exterior has a double row of 60 arches surmounted by an attic. It was originally constructed for gladiatorial shows, chariot races, and naval spectacles. In the 5th century, it was used as a fortress by the Visigoths. In the Middle Ages houses and a church were built inside it. In 1809 it was cleared of buildings and is now used for coridas (bloodless bullfights). It is used all year round since the installation of a removable roof - a recent century replacement of the original Roman awnings.

   
   

 

La Maison Carrée (literally The Square House. The famous Maison Carrée, a temple, was built in a Greek style during the 1st century AD as . It is a rectangular structure measuring 82 feet long by 40 feet wide. It now houses a museum of Roman sculpture. It was originally dedicated to Gaius and Lucius Caesar, the adopted sons of the emperor Augustus. It is one of the most beautiful monuments built by the Romans in Gaul, and certainly the best preserved, despite having been used, over the years, as a stable, a church, a town hall, and a museum. It now houses a collection of Roman sculptures.

In medieval times it was vandalised, like so many other ancient monuments, by the Church. In the 11th century a chapel was added to the North facade. The Maison Carrée itself was used as a town hall for the consuls of the town. The chapel was destroyed during the Wars of Religion. The maison was sold and converted into private residences and a stable. Augustinian monks bought it in 1673. An Augustinian convent was built onto it to the West, possibly to Christianise it. Fortunately the local authorities prevented them from completely destroying it and they had to be content with setting up a church inside the cella, and digging a cemetery under the building. In 1789 it was expropriated by the Revolutionary government, used as a granary and then sold off as a "bien national". During the nineteenth century it was used by the Prefecture du Gard, then it served as a repository for archives, and then became a museum in 1823. A large theatre was built to the west of the Maison Carrée. All this was cleared away in the twentieth century and the building was converted into a public library and museum of contemporary art.

 
    

The Romans were careful in their selection of stone. The podium and stairs are made of limestone from the local Roquemaillère quarry while the slabs of the stylobate are made of stone from the local Barutel quarry on the road to Arlès. A softer stone was needed for the carvings on the capitals, frieze, columns, bases, architraves and cornices. For this the Romans had to bring stone from Bois de Lens about 12 miles away. Another stone, soft limestone from Sernhac and Beaucaire, was used for the internal walls and substructure.

 
 
     

 

The Tour Magne is an octagonal tower dating (probably) from the 1st century BC, once part of the Roman fortifications. It is on top of a hill just outside the city, and is the city's oldest Roman building. It is 92 ft high, probably taller originally. From it you get a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings. Its precise function is not known. It was incorporated into the Roman wall in 16 BC.

Reservoir. Not far from the Tour Magne is a reservoir. This was the source of the water carried by the great Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct. Water was distributed throughout the town.

Jardin de la Fontaine. Located on the edge of the city is Jardin de la Fontaine, which was designed in 1745. The fountain, and the canals that flow through it, are partly Roman.

The Archeological Museum, which is housed in a former Jesuit college, has a fine collection of Roman objects, as well as some Iron Age artifacts.

Cathedral. The llth century Cathedral of Saint Castor.

Museums of fine art and local history are both worth a visit. Exhibitions take place at the “Carré d’Art” Museum of Contemporary Art, a structure of glass and steel designed by Sir Norman Foster (Now Lord Foster). It overlooks the site of the old Roman forum.

Porte d'Auguste. It it is through this gate that the Via Domitia entered Nîmes from the East. The central passageways were for chariots, the smaller side one for pedestrians.

The house where Alphonse Daudet was born.

Not far away is the famous Pont du Gard which brought water to Nimes. the photograph on the right shows a sort of water turntable, allowing water from various sources to be directed into various outlets to Nimes (The Romans built all this not because they needed drinking water but because they liked fountains and other water features).

The Feria is a 5-day Whitsuntide carnival with a strong southern accent - paella and flamenco - colourful traditional costumes, with gardians from the Camargue with their famous black bulls and white horses.

Throughout the summer, markets are held on Thursday nights, when stalls selling crafts, painting and local products.

 

Car Hire from Nīmes and Nīmes Airport

An important pilgrim route, the Via Tolosana (marked in blue on the right) led through Arles, St-Gilles, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert and Toulouse and crossed the Pyrenees to join other routes at Puenta-la-Reina, thence to Santiago along the Via Compostelana to Santiago de Compostela.

Another route, the Regordane (marked in green), led from Le Puy-en-Velay to St-Gilles, by way of the Cévennes, Alès and Nîmes. Some pilgrims came only as far as St-Gilles, the fourth most important pilgrimage destination in Europe. Others went on to Santiago de Compostela along the Via Tolosana possibly taking a detour to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (While Compostela claimed the relics of St-James, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer claimed the relics of his mother, Mary)

 
Pilgrims and hikers still walk these ancient pilgrimage routes. Click on the following external link for more information on walking the Regordane

 

Local Activities:
Nimes Campagne Golf (Golf de Nîmes Campagne) Click here for more details of golf clubs in this area
Nimes Vacquerolles Golf Club (Golf De Nimes Vacquerolles) Click here for more details of golf clubs in this area
Golf Club d'Uzès (Uzès Golf Club) Click here for more details of golf clubs in this area
Massane Golf Club Golf Club (Domaine de Massane Golf Club, 40 km away) Click here for more details of golf clubs in this area

The traditional manufacture of clothing and textiles still flourishes here.

From the UK, you can travel to Nîmes by Eurostar and theTGV

 

Buy at Art.com
Buy From Art.com
 
Grand Prix Automobile Nimes
Grand Prix Automobile Nimes Giclee Print
Ham, George

 

Poster Advertising Nimes, the French Rome, circa 1930
Poster Advertising Nimes, the French Rome, circa 1930 Giclee Print
Robert, Hubert
 
Musee des Beaux-Arts Nimes
Musee des Beaux-Arts Nimes Art Print
Bezombes, Roger

 

Exterior of Roman Amphitheatre, Arenes, Nimes, France
Exterior of Roman Amphitheatre, Arenes, Nimes, France Photographic Print
Gottschalk,...
 
Thermae and Nymphaeum of Nimes, 1838
Thermae and Nymphaeum of Nimes, 1838 Giclee Print
Questel

 

 
Grand Prix de Nimes, 1932
Grand Prix de Nimes, 1932 Giclee Print

 

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