Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015 - Perigueux

Perigueux is the largest city and once the capitol of the Perigord region. It takes its name from the Celtic tribes who first created a settlement on this spot around 200 AD.

The day is cloudy and cool with a chilly breeze making this a good day to visit a Roman museum called Vesunna and explore this city. Perhaps it is the day. Perhaps it is that I'm not feeling well. Perhaps I'm getting jaded. But coming into Perigueux, I just felt the city was "blah" - a big grey city without any charm or character. Walking city streets to get from the tourist office to Vesunna did not improve my opinion.

There is an old part to the city, dominated by its cathedral dedicated to St. Front, Perigueux' first bishop. It grew up as an episcopal center away from the original gallo-roman settlement farther east on the Isle River. But the cathedral was re-built in the 19th century by the same architect who built Sacre-Coeur. Only the crypt and the bell-tower are 12th century. The new cathedral is modeled after San Marco in Venice which is built as a Greek cross - a giant plus sign if you will. There are 5 round vaults over the nave, transepts, transept crossing and altar.

Cathedral of St. Front
5 domes cover the worship spaces in St. Front Cathedral

There is only one of 28 towers left from the city walled fortifications of the 15th century.
Medieval tower

This site provides a better perspective of the wonders of medieval Perigueux.  Fatigue, cold and rain don't make for enthusiastic viewing or looking for the charm. Grey day, grey stone buildings, grey thoughts. And rain.

HOWEVER, there is a fantastic museum set over the ruins of a Roman villa. Vesunna (named for the Roman town) is a short distance away and provides intriguing clues into the life of a wealthy family when Vesunna was a rich gallo-roman trading city on the river Isle around 200 AD.

Our first siting of Roman ruins is the "cella" (inner sanctum) of the Vesuna temple. It is a monstrously huge tower. (look at the size of the people walking along the bottom of the cella).
Cella of Vesunna temple

This reconstructed model of the city of Vesunna shows the temple at one end of the city and the arena at the other. The arena is a ruin and is now a large oval park and green space inside the rubble of the original walls. Only a few corridors remain to remind us of the spectacles where gladiators, martyrs, and wild animals entered to provide entertainment to the gallo-roman community.
Vesunna model: the arena is in the top center with the temple the large square and rectangle in the center
The cella would have been in the inside of the temple square

the ruins of the arena encircle a green park space

The Vesunna museum covers the vast excavations of a large Roman villa. The museum itself is completely unobtrusive while protecting the site and allowing non-intrusive visitation to the site by use of specially built walkways.
The central courtyard of the villa would have had a round pond in the center of it
Paintings on the walls surrounding the pond were of fishes
The museum walls are totally glass on 3 sides which makes you feel like you're outside

The 4th wall of the museum is 2 stories of artifacts from the gallo-roman city

The rooms of the villa can be seen from the walkways on either side
Some of the rooms still show their original paint on the lower meter of their walls because at some point
the floors were raised which protected the painted walls

An English audio guide is available for 1 Euro and is worth the investment. Videos and displays show how the villa would have looked and explain things like the water and heating systems.
drawing of what the villa would have looked like
We're seeing the center courtyard

A model of the villa - the parts in the museum are the rear part

decorated capitals from the town

carved decorative stone work

We get thrown out of the museum at 12:30 (it's lunch time), but could have stayed longer than our 1.5 hours. Dave wanders the other Roman remains in the area while I walk back to the car where we'll meet for lunch. It's now sprinkling on and off, so we eat lunch in the car (our first lunch in the car and without a view - it's been that kind of a day).   Dave spends a bit of time wandering the old city until the rain drives him back to the car. We call it an early day and head home. I for one could use a nap.

No comments:

Post a Comment