Description

The Porte des Gaules, now  filled with stone and history, reveals its beauty through wild caper bushes that pierce it from all sides. Nowadays impenetrable, with its monumental pillars it nevertheless unfailingly testifies to the greatness of the Roman city of which it was one of the four principal entrances. It would appear to be a romantic illustration in which nature and old stones covet and unite. And as if by magic, the Porte des Gaules disappears and reappears depending on whether we see it or deign to look at it.

Share

Favourite

Fréjus and its monuments, 2000 years of history

Porte des Gaules: history

The Roman wall around Fréjus (listed as a Historic Monument in 1886) was built in small sandstone blocks from the Esterel Massif. It was pierced by 4 gates, at each end of the two main axes of the Roman city: the Decumanus Maximus and the Cardo Maximus, The best preserved today is the Porte des Gaules, to the west. It is a contemporary name, the gateway to Gaul. During antiquity gateways took the name of the nearest town, in this case it was Aquae Sextiae, Aix en Provence, or the name of the Roman road that passed below it, the Via Aurelia. This gate is considered to be the largest Roman gateway in France. A paved road coming out of the carriage gateway but located at a lower level, has not been precisely dated. In 1919 under the level of the door J. Formigé found a "pavement with the parts worn by the wheels of the vehicles". Still visible today, it is the remains of part of the Via Aurelia, which connected Rome to Gaul and which crossed Fréjus. First called Via Julia Augusta under Emperor Augustus, in 13 BC the road took the name Via Aurelia under the Emperor Aurelian (270 - 275). This monumental gateway formed a vast semicircle 50 meters in diameter, with two round towers at the ends and a carriage gate 5.95 m wide (20 feet) in the centre, flanked by two posterns. Another tower partly destroyed and integrated into the masonry of the hemicycle still exists to the left of one of the posterns. It could be the vestiges of a previous state where two towers framed the door, like the Porte d’Auguste in Arles for example. As in Fréjus, from the Augustan period, city gateways in some walls present entrances with three "fornices" with arcades, for example in Rome, Porta Esquilina. Place Agricola above the gateway was levelled in 1842, protected by parapets on the side of the Porte des Gaules. The gateway was closed and the rampart served as a buttress wall which explains its good state of preservation. This gateway returned to being a passage after the revolution and lost it again when the square was raised higher.