Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Narbo Via

This is how the museum is presented?

When you ask about “attractions” in Narbonne, you are presented with the Archbishop’s Palace, the Cathedral, The Horreum (The underground warehouse), and the Narbo Via museum. We visited and really enjoyed the palace, the cathedral, and the Horreum as well as the Archeological site I wrote about previously, but to be honest the Narbo Via museum just looked like a big modern building with rows and rows of metal shelves holding pieces of stone from the vanished Roman city that was once Narbonne, so I was not so keen on going there. 

The Main Entrance

However, the nice little English guide at the Archeological site told us that many of the art works and interesting pieces she was telling us about that had been found at the site were now housed in the Narbo Via museum, so we revised our plans and decided to visit.

First impressions are good, as it is a spectacular modern building of glass and steel, unlike the old buildings we had been experiencing in the central part of town, and as you approach, you have to walk down a long wide walkway to get to the entrance which instead of being on the front, is on the side. 

One of the 760 stones

Now, the main part of the museum is indeed, a wall of stones, but it is really amazing, 76 metres long and 10 metres high, holding 760 blocks from the ancient Roman city. Just walking down and looking at the ancient stones is interesting, but you can also go to video terminals and pick many of the stones to examine closer via vivid photos that can be manipulated by spinning and turning then 360°. The booklet & map also explains that they have adapted an industrial robot crane that is able to pull any of the stones out for further closer study by the archeologists.

A bigger stone block
Once you finish with the wall of stones, you enter a series of rooms and digital alcoves that explain the history of the Romans in Narbonne, from earliest, to the decline in Christian times. These rooms contain larger stones and statues that do not fit into the wall of stones, and really gave a good picture of the splendour that Narbonne was in Roman times. One of these rooms displayed all of the artifacts that had been unearthed at the Archeological site we visited and rooms from the two houses that had been discovered were recreated to display the artifacts. 

Another headless Roman

The digital video alcoves were particularly interesting because here many of the buildings of Roman Narbonne were digitally recreated. I found it interesting to see the houses we visited at the dig site recreated in video. One alcove provided a video tour through the Roman city. One section showed a 3D map of what it was thought the ancient Roman city would have been like. All of what is now central Narbonne was part of the old Roman city and from what I could interpret the apartment we are renting is built over one of the major buildings in the Roman city. 

In many cities the actual remains of Roman structures have survived. Rome had the Coliseum and many other structures, we visited the old Roman baths in Bath, England, and the walls in Chester, England, but nothing remains above ground here in Narbonne. The Roman history is here, but you have to visit the museums to experience it. The Narbo Via Museum really was an educational and enjoyable way to spend a Narbonne morning.

Recreation of one of the Roman rooms

A video tour of ancient Roman Narbonne

A beautiful tiled floor found at the dig site

A bearded tourist examines the "Bearded Roman" stone

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