A 2.000-year-old way of life
Located 30 km away from the South of Lyon, on the right bank of the Rhone river, the archaeological site of Saint-Romain-en-Gal – Vienne offers on more than three hectares, the remains of a neighbourhood of the Roman city of Vienna.
In ancient times, Vienna, capital of a vast territory covering the Dauphine and Savoy, extended on each side of the Rhone river.
Today, the archaeological site and museum of Saint-Romain-en-Gal brings back the visitors 2.000 years ago, in one of the richest cities of the Roman Gaul.
The legacy of the Gallo-Roman Vienna
The visitor who discovers Saint-Romain-en-Gal should keep in mind the topography of the ancient times: between the first century BC and the fourth century AD, Vienna, one of the largest cities of the Roman Gaul extended on each side of the Rhone river.
Today, three municipalities and two departments share its legacy:
– Vienna, on the left bank, in the Isère department;
– Saint-Romain-en-Gal and Sainte-Colombe on the right bank, in the Rhône department.
The cityscape was not identical on each side of the river. On the right bank, a mainly residential and commercial district was developed, whose classified site of Saint-Romain-en-Gal offers a very suggestive image, whereas the political and religious centre, as well as the performances buildings, were located on the left bank.
The discovery of the past
Since the sixteenth century, scholars and researchers have been dedicated to the antiquities that appear throughout the territory of the ancient city. On the right bank, the remains of the great public baths remained in elevation and known as the Palace of Mirrors (Palais du Miroir), attest the former splendour of the Roman city.
Nicolas Chorier, lawyer in the Parliament of Grenoble, described them in his book, The Research of Sire Chorier on the history of the city of Vienne, metropolis of Allobroges, published in 1658.
At the end of the eighteenth century, Pierre Schneyder, founder of the Vienna Museum, carried out excavations in the area of the today classified site, and discovered a number of pavements.
Until the early twentieth century, the discovery of mosaics, most of the time fortuitous, were numerous on the whole territory of Sainte-Colombe and Saint-Romain-en-Gal.
The Museum of Saint-Romain-en-Gal – Vienne
To meet the requirements of a site museum, to ensure the introduction, study and conservation of the collections, Philippe Chaix and Jean-Paul Morel, winners of the architect competition, planned and designed two very different buildings.
The complex, finished in 1996, represents an area of over 12 000 m2.
Along the river, the permanent exhibition building, built over a Roman house is implemented on stilts.
Perpendicular to the Rhone river, the reception building with concrete structures appears firmly rooted to the ground. It welcomes the various functions of the museum such as the ticket office, the temporary exhibition, the shop and the restaurant, as well as a research center and a mosaic restoration workshop.
The museum seen from the left bank of the Rhone
(by the architects Ph. Chaix and JP Morel)
Strong element of the landscape, the museum located in the extension of the bridge over the Rhone ensures symbolically the continuity between the two sides, obvious reference to the urban unity from the Roman period.
The permanent exhibition building
Built on stilts, this aerial structure perfectly merges with the plan of a city block of the Roman city explored before its construction. Transparent on all fronts, the permanent exhibition building provides an overview of the Gallo-Roman district of Saint-Romain-en-Gal, the Rhone river and the city of Vienna on the left bank.
Inside view of the permanent exhibition
The quality of the architecture and the light, the relationship between the exhibition and the site were made possible thanks to the transparency of the building; to create a unique scenography that values the collections.
The discovery tour
To get an overview of the collections
Every Thursday and Sunday at 3pm, all year long
(Except during events and closing days)
The museum tour
Reviving a vanished world
The collections provide a complete view of the daily life in the first centuries AD. The decision was to have an ethnological approach, with numerous reconstructions in the form of models.
The path introduces first the site and its history, and the extent of the Romanization, including the mosaic of the victorious athletes, the wrestlers baths paintings and the model of Vienna in the second century AD.
Crafts, trade and the economic importance of the city, source of wealth for its inhabitants, are then discussed in the museum part overlooking the Rhône, recalling then the essential role of the river as a mean of communication and transportation. Further, it is also possible to discover the diversity of the designs and the original style of the Vienna mosaic.
Finally, overlooking the archaeological site, a presentation of the Roman house, room by room, which restores the context and gestures of the daily life.
Where are the collections from?
Classified site of Saint-Romain-en-Gal: there are the discoveries made on the site itself and during the programmed excavations conducted regularly since 1981.
Deposit of the City of Vienna (Isère): it enables to present prestigious pieces belonging to the museums of Vienna. Many works acquired in the nineteenth century, come from fortuitous discoveries on both banks of the Rhone, as the mosaic “Châtiment de Licurgue” (the punishment of Lycurgus).
Preventive archaeological excavations: those archaeological missions, prescribed by the State services in the Region, are carried out before the construction work affecting the ruins, when no solution of protection is possible. They have expanded since the 1980s, and the results have greatly renewed our knowledge, especially on the topography of the Roman city.
The archeological site of Saint-Romain-en-Gal:
one of the largest dedicated to the Gallo-Roman civilization in France.
On seven hectares, the vestiges of the rich residential area of Vienna, then ” Roman colony”, can be found.
Located at the edge of the Rhône, the major axis by which the goods between the Mediterranean Sea and the provinces of the North passed in transit, as the city of Vienna, knew a strong development in the 50s AD.
The wealth of the inhabitants is expressed by the luxury of houses which are situated next to the thermal baths, shops, workshops of craftsmen, workshops: one of the most widespread Roman districts discovered in France!
An exceptional archeological site
We knew for a very long time that the right bank of the Rhône, in front of Vienna, had been occupied during the Antiquity, but we imagined some big houses scattered in the countryside.
In 1967, before the construction of a high school, the archaeologists began a big excavation in the place named “La Plaine”. And there is the surprise! They discovered the vestiges of an entire city!
The brought to light of the big houses with the luxurious accomodations , paved ways, public thermal baths, warehouses and workshops, enable slowly but surely to recompose an urban landscape among which the organization and the attention to comfort amaze by their modernity.
Since then, the site was acquired by the Department of the Rhône and classified as an “Historic Monument” in the 70s.
Le Domaine des Allobroges
This mansion, open to the public since 2008, spreads out on more than 3000m2 with an antique vineyard, a botanical garden and reconstructions of Gallo-Roman potters’ kilns.
An antique vineyard
The museum offers you to share the delicious inheritance of a wine-making ground made by the Roman conquest and which, since then, continues the tradition with vineyards known today all over the world!
More than 300 vines of fifteen different vines listed among the oldest of France were chosen by Michel BOUVIER, wine historian, and Thierry LACOMBE, research engineer in the French National Institute of Research for Agriculture ( INRA). Inzolia, Savagnin, Mondeuse Noire, Barbera, Muscat à petit grains, Gouais, Petit Verdot, Silvestris, Cabernet franc, Malvasia di Sardegna, Petit Manseng, Rèze, Nebbiolo, Muscat d’Alexandrie, Grenache come from the experimental unit of le Domaine de Vassal ( 34 ) which accommodates the national and international collection of the INRA’s vines. Vines are presented according to six different attested ways from the roman time, each vine being cultivated according to its characteristics such as the curtain training…
A Roman garden
A botanical garden was created on the site to enable the public to discover the importance of plants in the daily life of Gallo-Romans. More than a hundred of varieties can be found: garlic, dill, bugloss, celery, coriander, cumin, blackcurrant, caraway, fenugreek, gentian, bison grass, hyssop, iris, laurel, lovage, linen, mint, marjoram, mustard, myrtle, onion, oregano, poppy, parsley, rue, savory, thyme, valerian, verbena … In the Antiquity, these plants were used in the wine production, as vegetables, medicinal plants or even dyeing plants…
An area of reconstruction of the potters’ kilns
To enable the analysis of the cooking of the ceramic names communes, two kilns “with open flames ” were reconstituted and put into operation. The construction of two kilns “with pipes” enable to obtain a ceramic with glossy red varnish said sigillata.
Two reconstruction events every year
This event is dedicated to the reconstruction of Roman grape harvests and to the antique cooking, it enables people to assist to the various stages of the wine production, to taste antique dishes next to archaeologists, wine growers, oenologist, re-enactors and craftsmen.
The Gallo-roman days
These European days of antique reconstruction welcome more than 300 participants who camp, cook, play, fight or work in front of the visitors to offer them a total immersion in history.
Opening hours of the museum
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: from 10 a.m to 6 p.m
Closed on: Mondays, January 1st, May 1st, November 1st and December 25th.
Museum and site (including the exhibition)
➜ Full rate: 6€
➜ Reduced rate: 3€
➜ Reduced rate: students, family with more than 3 children, group of ten or less people
➜ Free admission for educational group, disabled visitors + 2 attendants, visitors under the age of 18, unemployed individuals and visitors receiving the RSA…
Ask us if you want more information on the free admission.
➜ Free admission to the museum for all visitors on: the 1st Sunday of every month (except during events)
➜ Supplement: guided tour: 2€ – Activities: 3€
➜ “Intermusées” tickets: For 6 museums and sites of the city of Vienne: information at the reception: Advantage Cards accepted: M’RA card, TIP TOP card, Lyon City Card, holiday vouchers
The Museum offers for free audio tours to explore as you wish its permanent collections, the exhibition and the site.
– These audio tours are available in French, English, German, Spanish and Italian
– A special audio tour for children in French (from 7 years old)
The museum is accessible to visitors with disabilities (inside) but not the site (outside). The museum aims to ensure all visitors can access the museum safely and comfortably. There are limited number of parking spaces available for disabled visitors in the Museum. Lifts and accessible toilets. A magnetic loop and headphones are available at the Information Desk for guided tours.
Audio guides are equipped with bone conduction headsets and magnetic loops. The auditorium is also accessible.
Special Thanks to Lauriane Mas for the translation – 2016