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Roman Sites & Museums in Normandy

This northwestern region of France attracts many visitors to see the memorials and monuments of the D-Day Beaches of World War 2, not far from the city of Caen. Further back in time, Rouen was one of the largest and richest cities of Medieval Europe. Also a city where Joan of Arc is thought to have been burned at the stake. Where Monet painted his famous cathedral series. The Seine River Valley is know too for the many beautiful abbeys and monasteries. Normandy was heavily attacked by the Vikings from the 9th century onwards. Normandy has been the site of many conflicts, including the Normandy Campaigns in the early years of the 1200s, the Hundred Years War from 1337, and the 16th century Wars of Religion. Each of these has had a visible impact on the built environment, and what it is that tourists come to see.

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Roman Sites in Normandy


After the French Revolution workmen were digging the foundations for a road through the forest near the city of Eu. They cut through the walls of a Roman building. After several decades of excavations the remains of a medium sized Gallo-Roman town have been uncovered, with typical architectural features such as a theatre, a forum and public bath houses. From the 1st century AD the Romans developed a substantial sanctuary complex on the site of what had been a Celtic shrine.

Gallo-Roman Baths of Alauna

Although no inscriptions have ever been found, the town of Valgones on the Contentin Peninsular has long been identified as the Roman town of Alauna. Today all there is to see in the town are the ruins of the late 1st century AD public baths. These were uncovered during excavations at the end of the 17th century, along with the remains of a theatre, now covered. It is thought that this was first an Iron Age tribe – the Venelli, mentioned by Caesar. While present day Cherbourg assumed greater strategic importance, Alauna remained a minor town.

Roman Theatre of Juliobona

Lillebonne, on the north banks of the Seine River, was from the 1st to the 3rd centuries AD called Juliobona by the Romans – a homage to Julius Cesar. It was a prosperous supply base on the channel between Gaul and Britannia. The Romans abandoned the town towards the end of the third century when it was invaded by barbarians. The theatre is the most prominent, but not the only Roman feature in the town today. It was built during the 1st century Ad, and in he late 3rd century was converted into a private house, with its own thermal baths – the remains of which are in the arena.

Roman Vieux-la-Romaine - Aregenua

During the 1st century AD Aregenua became the capital of the Viducasse Celtic tribe. Situated at the crossroads of two Roman roads, the town became an important commercial staging post. Aregenua and Juliobona are the only two capital towns in Gallo-Roman Normandy that did not develop into medieval towns. There are three main features for visitors to see, two quite different houses and the forum. That these were found and excavated in different times is very clearly evident in their presentation today.

Museums With Roman Collections in Normandy

Juliobona Museum

Directly opposite the Roman theatre on the Place Félix Faure is the Juliobona Museum. The museum houses the town’s Gallo Roman collections. When the museum reopens on 13 April 2024, a new set of displays will be unveiled. Within a series of exhibits showing what life was like in Roman times, for the first time the so-called ‘Domina tomb’ will be on display. These include the artefacts from the burial of a young girl from the aristocratic elite of Juliobona – the Roman name for Lillebonne.

Musée de Normandie, Caen

Opened in 1963, the museum of the history of Normandy is housed in what was the Governor’s residence within the walls of the Ducal castle of Caen. The building we see today is a restored version of a mansion that was constructed in the 1th century, but badly damaged in WWII. A series of permanent exhibits chart the history of Normandy from prehistory to the Middle Ages; with artefacts from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. Displays focus on the transformation of rural communities through time, first with the arrival of Romans in the area, and then with the advent of industry in the region.

Musée des Antiquités, Rouen

Established in 1831 specifically for the artefacts recovered from the excavations of Gallo-Roman sites in Lillebonne, one highlight of which is a mosaic floor. Since then it has evolved into the departmental museum of antiquities for the Seine Maritime Department. Now, with numerous and varied collections, this museum tells the history of Normandy from the Bronze Age to the Renaissance. Thanks to private donations, the museum also has a fine collection of Egyptian, Near Eastern and Greek antiquities.

St Lô Museum of Art & History

Founded in 1835 as a local and natural history museum, by the second half of the 20th century the museum had gathered an impressive collection of fine art. The collection is mainly French art from the 17th to 20th century, including paintings from the Rouen School of Impression and a substantial collection of tapestries from the 16th to 20th century. The museum also displays archaeological artefacts from sites around the St Lô region. One highlight being the celebrated Thorigny Marble (an inscribed sandstone statue base) from the Roman town of Vieux-la-Romaine.

Vieux-la-Romaine Museum

A light an airy museum with many artefacts from the various excavations sites around the tow. These displays show what life was like in Roman times, as well as providing a history of interest and archaeological research in the site town. An interesting film in French and English gives a good overview of the town’ history and significance in roman Gaul. If time allows, this is a good place to start before exploring the different sites scattered around Vieux.

Interactive Map of Roman Sites & Museums in Normandy

You can do at least two things with the following interactive map. First, by switching the display of the map to satellite mode (you can uncheck ‘labels’ to get a clutter free map), you can get a street view of most of the sites. Simply click and drag the yellow pegman (lower right) onto the map and drop it on a blue line or dot to get street-view at that point.

Second, you can also use the markers on the map to save that site or museum to your itinerary. Click on a marker to see the site’s information box. If you are logged in you will see the option to add that place to your itineraries and travel lists. Login or register to use these features.

Roman Sites & museums in Normandy

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