The Roman arch of Cavaillon is one of the oldest monuments in the city. It dates from the 1st century AD Jesus Christ, nicknamed Arc Marius, after the Roman general who colonized the region.
It was at this time that the city really developed in the plain.
This arch is not at its original location, it was once located right next to the cathedral.
In 1880, Cavaillon began to be enlarged to the south, on the outskirts, from Place du Clos. This square, which had just been created, was then home to a fruit and vegetable market. To symbolically mark the extension of the city, the Roman arch is moved and installed on this square.
The architecture of the arch is simple. It can be seen that it consists of two hoops. These hoops are supported by 4 pillars.
At the level of the 1st arch, on the vault, at the top, on each side, two sculpted figures can be distinguished.
These characters are called Victories. Those on the left hold a palm in his left hand. The second holds a wreath of laurels.
The corner pillars are topped by Corinthian capitals. On these pillars we see very interesting and very well carved patterns. You can see a whole series of acanth leaves.
The acanthus is a plant that can be seen by walking on the hill of St Jacques, a small massif, detached part of the Luberon which lies behind the arch.
When you head to the right outer side of the arch, and look closely at the decor on the outer side of the pillar, you see an unusual and original decoration made of acanth leaves, flowers, butterflies and birds. It is a cheerful country setting that dominates this arch.
On the inner side of this same pillar we discover a Christian inscription which is in fact an epitaph!
It may seem surprising that an epitaph is inscribed on such a monument, and what is more, as much in height. But this arch was found for centuries in the same place in damp soils, next to the cathedral. It has gradually sunk over time, to more than half its height.
There were only the arches of the arch protruded from the ground. The arch was thus able to serve as a tombstone to write the Christian epitaph that we see. So there was probably a tomb next to the arcs of the Roman Arch.
This arch offers no representation of Gallic captives or even combat scenes. We don't see military trophies either. On the contrary, the decor that we see is peaceful and very blossomed. A triumphal arch was designed to remind the Roman conquests. Other bows bear witness to this, such as St Rémy, Orange, Carpentras and Avignon.
Was this bow without combat scenes really a triumphal bow? Many historians have asked themselves this question. In addition, the outer side of the second hoop does not have any decoration at all, the wall is completely bare. It is therefore possible to think that this arch may have been backed by another larger building.
This arch was probably placed at the entrance to the Roman Baths. These thermal baths could be found on the forum, where the cathedral is today. Thus, one might think that the arch was perhaps not a triumphal arch, but simply a pleasure building, which marked the entrance to an establishment.
Other historians argue a different hypothesis. According to them, the arch was not the entrance to a building, but rather marked the intersection of two roads. These were the two traditional Roman routes, which were perpendicular.
These routes were called cardo and decumanus. At the time, the arch consisted of four arches, parallel two to two. There are only two hoops left today. The ensemble formed a square building with four openings. It was therefore possible to cross the intersection of roads along two perpendicular axes.
Discover Cavaillon in the Luberon, its history, the places to visit, its famous melon and its via Ferrata. A must-see site for your holidays in the South.
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