Jublains – Ancient Roman Town in France with Fortress, Amphitheatre, Temple and Baths
Among the most surprising local sites we have visited are the Gallo-Roman archaeological remains at Jublains in the Mayenne department of the Pays de la Loire.
Before the arrival of the Romans, a Gallic village belonging to the Diablintes tribe of Gaul stood on the site of present-day Jublains.
Development of the Roman Town at Jublains
When the Romans conquered Gaul in the first century AD they founded at this spot a new town called Noviodunum, which became the administrative town for the region previously occupied by the Diablintes. The existing wooden Gallic temple was replaced by a Roman temple built in stone and they constructed all of the other comforts necessary for normal Roman life – public baths, a theatre, market place and so on. By the second half of the first century AD a typical Roman town with a grid network of perpendicular streets had been developed.
However, the fortress is the most spectacular of all the Roman remains on the Jublains site. When the fortress remains were discovered in the 18th and 19th centuries it was thought that it may have housed a Roman legion. However, it is now believed that it was actually a fortified granary depot serving the Roman armies in the surrounding regions, and that it was only transformed into a military fortress in the late third century.
The Roman fortress is distinguished by monolithic granite facing stones, each weighing several tons, and equally large blocks used for doorways and lintels. The interior is divided into a maze of storage areas and living quarters. The well preserved Roman baths inside the fortress are divided into three rooms (hot, warm and cold).
The fortress must be accessed via the museum designed by the curator Jacques Naveau. This airy building houses countless treasures. Here, a ball with twelve faces in bronze from the early third century. There, an engraved sword from the Iron Age. Further on, finely decorated pottery, gold coins from the first century B.C., all sorts of remains are on show.
The remains of the Roman amphitheatre are a short walk away in a natural wooded setting, down a pathway located near the church. On the pathway lives a sculptor who makes amazing animals, birds and fantastic creatures in scrap metal.
Excavations of the Roman theatre at Jublains have revealed in detail the sitting areas and the stage, and it was amazing, sitting on the terraces on a sunny evening, to imagine the performances taking place there almost 2000 years ago. The amphitheatre in its day had a capacity of 4 000 people and is nowadays used for open-air dance and music shows in summer.
The well preserved Roman public baths are visible in excavations beneath the church in the centre of Jublains, animated by an excellent sound and light show.
On the outskirts of the village are the remains of the Roman temple – we did not have time to visit this, unfortunately.
Picnics are possible within the walls of the fortress or the amphitheatre. You can also eat the village, which has a creperie and a pizzeria.
How to get there, where to stay near Jublains
Jublains is an hour away from our B&B on the Normandy-Pays de Loire border, driving via Villaines-la-Juhel.
Opening times, Entry Prices
The Visitor Centre and Fortress are open all year round except Christmas and New Year Days.
13 rue de la Libération
Tel. : +33 (0)2 43 04 30 16
Jublains website http://www.jublains.fr
May to Sept : every day from 9.00am to 6.00pm
Oct to April : every day except Monday 9.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 5.30pm
The public baths in the church, amphitheatre and temple are open free all year round.