Site: Roman Town, Theatre, Temple, Baths, Fort
From the 4th century the Gallic tribe of the area, the Diablintes, had a sanctuary to the north of what is today the town of Jublains. Romans started to build houses near this sanctuary in the first few decades of the first century AD. An important commercial town developed over the years that became a political centre for the area, and the capital of the Diablintes people. As a result of this political and economic significance the town had a forum, a theatre, temple and large public bath house. The remains of these still accessible today.
Towards of the end of the 3rd century AD, with the weakening of the Roman Empire, all areas of Gaul and the Romans were under attack from various groups in Europe including the Saxons from Germany. A fortified building with earthen ramparts was constructed on the southern edge of the border, later followed by the addition of a surrounding stone wall. A significant portion of this fort is still standing and is said to be one of the most well preserved Roman fortifications in France.
Where is Jublains?
The town of Jublains is about 10 kilometres to the south east of Mayenne, the capital town of the Department of the same name, in the Pays de la Loire region of north western France.
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Roman Points of Interest in the town of Jublains:
Scattered about Jublains are the remains of the various Roman structures. These are pinpointed on the Google earth map above, and also indicated on the photographs of the model of the Roman town below.
Walking from the bath house to the temple, passing by where the forum once stood, visitors encounter a wide open grassy, parkland space. The grass is dissected by grit roads, which mark the position of roads that would have divided the urban part of the town into insulae, or islands. These insulae are where the remains of various urban buildings have been found.
The temple complex was constructed at was the main entrance to the town, on the site of the Diablintes sanctuary, between the years of 66 and 120 AD. An outer wall surrounds a square sacred space with sides that measure 78 metres. There was an inner portico and a typical temple that had a podium and a sacred room that held a divine statue – a woman seated on an armchair. The female figure is thought to have belonged to the Celtic pantheon of gods, but here in Jublains under the Romans it was assimilated into a new set of rituals that characterised the Gallo-Roman period.
It was at the eastern entrance in the outer wall, that the painted fragment of the pigeon was recovered.
The remains of two theatres can be seen at Jublains. The second theatre was built directly on top of the first, probably during the second half of the first century AD. Much of the structure of the second one is very noticeable, including the tiers for seating, the entertainment area and the vomitorium. But the foundations of the first theatre are also visible – and as the second was built on top of the first, it can be confusing. But, there is a very good information board that gives a clear plan showing which is which.
A substantial public bath house was constructed towards the end of the first century in the centre of the town. With the spread of Christianity and the withdrawal of Roman control in the area, the bath house was converted into a church sometime during the fifth century by removing inner partition walls and filling in the baths. Consequently, the church retained its Gallo-Roman appearance. In 1877 the church was fully renovated to produce the church we see today. More recently the foundations of the baths have been excavated and put on display. The church is open to see the remains of the bath house during the same hours as the museums’s opening hours.
Of all the Roman monuments in Jublains, the fort is by far the largest and in the best condition. In fact, it is also said to be the best preserved Roman fortifications in France. There are three main components to the fort: a central building that surrounded by an earthen rampart, which is in turn surrounded by quite a substantial stone wall. The exact function of the fort is unclear, as is the reason for its construction. Although always said to be a fortress, some archaeologists also think that the inner building started out as a civic warehouse. The earthen rampart and stone wall appear to have been built at times of known local troubles. So some believe that the civic warehouse was being fortified against piracy acts and peasant revolts.
Musée de Jublains
Given the extensive excavations carried out in the 1990s, there is an extensive collection of artefacts, and much is now known about Noviodunum. A relatively new and state of the art museum is now open to the public in Jublains – right next to the fort. The exhibits include displays about the prehistory of the area, prior to the arrival of the Romans, but obviously has extensive displays on the Gallo-Roman period – including a spectacular model of the town, and an excellent aerial view of the town showing where all the features of the Roman town are. Some of the objects on display are truly exquisite.
Facilities & Visiting the museum of Jublains:
The opening hours of the museum vary throughout the year, check the website for up-to-date information. The bath house under the church is the only one of the sites in the town that has restricted access – the hours are the same as for those of the museum.
Facilities & Visiting Jublains:
Archaeology Travel’s Tip for visiting Jublains:
Jublains is not a large town, but there is a lot to see. For visitors who have a few hours to spare, or the better part of a day, this is a great attraction to visit. It may not compare to some of the cities of the south of France with their extensive and monumental Roman remains, but for northern France Jublains is one not to miss. I recommend starting at the museum to get your bearings, and then visiting the other features as time permits. If you are pressed for time, it is possible to drive to the various sites – and see most in two hours at least. But, it is equally possible to walk between them all, take a picnic or eat at one of the restaurants, and enjoy a great day out.
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