Friday, March 23, 2012

Le Mur des Sarrasins

Our travels in the south of France and Italy introduced us to some world-famous Roman ruins. I recently discovered that Clermont-Ferrand has a Roman wreck of its very own! Not nearly as renowned, the ruins are a secret even most locals have not seen.

"Are you sure we're allowed in there? 3rd century Roman ruins are down this alley?"

I discovered the ruins of the Wall of Sarrasins because of a geocache. Hidden in the parking lot at 2 rue Rameau and surrounded by tall buildings, the ruins were re-discovered in 1875 and date back to the second or third century. The wall is 22 m long, 7 meters high and 1.70 m thick, constructed of Roman concrete and decorated with volcanic stone siding, and cords and columns of flat brick. In the sixth century, Grégoire de Tours mentions the wall as a possible vestige of the vast Roman temple Wasso Galate (from which the word Jaude is derived), which was destroyed in the third century. In the late Middle Ages, it was incorporated into the walls of the château fort des Salles (visited in 1838 by Prosper Mérimée, inspector of historic monuments) and only restored in 1990.

See, not the most exciting Roman ruins, are they? Trust me, the photo does do the wall justice

Just a short distance from our apartment, we often bring visitors there. I’m not sure why, as the wall isn’t very impressive, especially in its current state. The signs guiding visitors to it brings you to the south side of the wall, which reveals only a very small portion of the wall, however the view from the north in the parking lot isn’t much better. I understand the need for the fence (to protect this important historical monument) but a more aesthetic one would serve the same purpose and allow a better look not obstructed by automobiles. I sincerely hope the city of Clermont at least installs an informative plaque with the history of the wall so that people understand what history is preserved in the mur.

Wonderful signage leads to a great view on the south side


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