Thirty kilometers to the south of Lyon and on the right bank of the Rhône River, the archaeological site of Saint-Romain-en-Gal – Vienne offers more than three hectares (7.5 acres) of archaeological vestiges of a neighborhood of the Roman city of Vienne.
During Antiquity, Vienne, as it was known, was the capital of a vast territory covering the Dauphiné and Savoy regions that stretched over each side of the Rhône.
Today, the archaeological site and the Museum of Saint-Romain-en-Gal take visitors 2000 years back in time to one of the richest cities of Roman Gaul.
- THE HERITAGE OF GALLO-ROMAN VIENNE
The visitor discovering Saint-Romain-en-Gal must keep in mind the topography of Antiquity : between the 1st century BC and the 4th century AD, Vienna, one of the largest cities of Roman Gaul, covered the two banks of the Rhône.
Today, three communes and two departments share its heritage :
- Vienne, on the left bank, in the Isère Department
- Saint-Romain-en-Gal and Saint-Colombe on the right bank, in the Rhône Department
The urban landscape was not the same on both sides of the river. The residential and commercial district developed on the right. Its vestiges can still be seen in Saint-Romain-en-Gal, which is classified as a historical site.
The political and religious center, as well as public entertainment sites, was situated on the left bank.
- THE DISCOVERY OF THE PAST
Since the 16th century, scholars and researchers have been inspired by the antiques appearing throughout the territory of the ancient city. On the right bank, the vestiges of the public baths, known under the name of Palais du Miroir, evoke the ancient splendor of the Roman city.
Nicolas Chorier, a lawyer belonging to the Grenoble Parliament, described them inAntiquities of the City of Vienne, published in 1658.
At the end of the 18th century, Pierre Schneyder, founder of the Museum of Vienne, conducted archaeological excavations in the district which is now classified as a historical site, uncovering several pavements in the process.
Up until the beginning of the 20th century, there was a mostly accidental discovery of mosaics throughout the territory of Sainte-Colombe and Saint-Romain-en-Gal.
- THE MUSEUM OF SAINT-ROMAIN-EN-GAL – VIENNE
In order to respond to the demands of an on-site museum, award-winning architects Philippe Chaix and Jean-Paul Morel designed two buildings that are very different in their conception.
The ensemble, completed in 1996, covers a surface of more than 12000 m².
Situated along the river, the permanent exhibit building constructed on top of a Roman house stands on stilts.
Perpendicular to the Rhône, the main building, constructed in concrete, appears to be anchored to the ground. This building is home to the museum's administration and services : ticket office, temporary exhibit, boutique and restaurant, as well as a research center and a mosaic restoration studio.
The Museum seen from the left bank of the Rhône, architects Ph. Chaix and J.P. Morel.
A striking feature of the landscape, the Museum, situated in the prolongation of the Rhône river bridge, is a reference to the symbolic continuity between the two banks, and to the urban unity of the Roman era.
The Permanent Exhibit Building
Constructed on stilts, this structure remains faithful to the map of a small island of the Roman city excavated before its construction. With its transparent façades, the permanent exhibit building offers a view of the Gallo-Roman district of Saint-Romain-en-Gal, the Rhône, and the city of Vienne on the left bank.
Interior View of the Permanent Exhibit Room
The quality of the light and architecture, the relation between exhibit pieces and the site, made possible thanks to the transparency of the building, compose a unique scenery that showcases the collections.