A few miles from La Citadelle, towards St Emilion, is the village of Montcaret. Apart from being a stage on the road from Bergerac to Castillon-La-Bataille, it is best known for its Gallo-Romano remains. We can recommend a visit to these.
Click on any picture below to enlarge it.
|Since it is so close to La
Citadelle, we visit Montcaret regularly. It has a good garden centre where we
have bought some well-grown silver birch trees, some excellent antique
dealers, from one of whom we bought a glass-fronted cherry-wood bookcase,
and a cabinet maker.
We made a trip to what must have been the smallest Foire Pour Tous in France, at the start of June, and at last this autumn we visited the Roman site that had been recommended to us so strongly by family and friends.
|The site of the remains
has been continuously occupied from the establishment of the Romans in Gaul
in the first century before Christ until the present day. It
consists of the stunning range of mosaic floors shown here, and two main
Roman complexes - the largest Roman reception suite anywhere in the world,
and a baths complex. The long-term importance of this area is shown by the
extraordinary density of chateaux.
This picture shows the foundations of the Roman reception hall complex, with the visitors' centre behind.
|Building started in the
first century B.C. The complex was slightly damaged in the first barbarian
invasion between 275 and 277 A.D. Rebuilding was started
immediately. The majority of the remains are from the fourth century, and these were
again in the second barbarian invasion of 407 A.D.
To this day there seems to be some controversy about whether the remains are of a grand villa, or an important public thermal baths complex.
|The barbarian invaders,
principally Visigoths and Francs, were Christians, and there was a
continuity of use of the site from the Roman villa to use as a burial
ground: the site is dotted with many medieval tombs.
The tombs outside have surrounds and covers. The tombs dug through the dining room floors have their skeletons!
|When a state of peace was (briefly) re-established in the 11th century, Benedictine monks built on the site, using materials mined from the villa. Their priory was partially destroyed in the 12th Century during the Wars of Religions by roving bands of Huguenot militants under Arnaud de Clermont. When the Benedictines abandoned the site a few years later, the importance of Montcaret faded. The Church of Saint-Pierre has now been fully restored by les Monuments Historiques, which runs the excellent Visitors' Centre. The earliest parts of the church were built in the Merovingian period during the 6th and 7th centuries.|
|The reception suite
consist of of a huge reception room 17 metres long by 16 metres wide
(shown above), fully centrally heated and air-conditioned, and four-lobed
The shape of the dining room is designed to take the reclining beds fashionable for dining at that time.
It is surrounded by a very well-preserved set of tiled drains, which are viewed through a glass walkway.
|Each panel of the floor of
the swimming pool has a different scene of sea creatures (some
details are shown below).
Beyond the well preserved pool is a tepid pool and a hot bath. These latter two extend below the road and private gardens beyond, but the archeologists cannot obtain permission to excavate these; nevertheless, the patterns of their mosaic floors are described in the guidebooks.
| The site is
well-staffed and unaccompanied and guided tours are available; for the
former, excellent English-language explanatory folders are available.
The director of the centre gave us a very comprehensive explanation of the site before we went round by ourselves; he gave us the choice of English or French, but we chose French because we thought that the description would be fuller. Children who are interested in the Romans or archeology will find the detail interesting - the hypocausts, the baths, the drains, and the skeletons!
In 2002 the entrance fee was 4 Euros, and it was
worth every cent.
1 April - 30 June: 09:30 -12:30 and 14:00
Closed: 1 Jan, 1 May, 1 Nov, 11 Nov, and 25 Dec
You can check up to date details on the web site of the Centre des monuments nationale
|Site gallo-romaine de Montcaret
Tel: 05 53 58 80 18
Fax: 05 53 73 26 50
The site is half a mile north of the main D936 road from
Bergerac towards Libourne and Bordeaux, and is well sign-posted in