and western Provence
Arles was founded by the Romans as a rival to the ancient Greek cities (like Nice and Marseilles) along what is now the French coast when they conquered Gaul. Its legacy is still visible in the public buildings that remain from the Roman era. During the Middle Ages, Arles was briefly the capital city of its own kingdom and part of the Holy Roman Empire before being taken over by France. Nowadays tourists are the main invaders of Provence.
old Roman walls, for example, still encircle part of the old town:
fragments of the Roman past are sprinkled throughout
the old town, such as what remains of this Roman temple:
Roman past had to accomodate itself to changing realities, though. This Roman
amphitheater was converted in the Middle Ages into a fortress by blocking up
the openings and building towers here and there around its perimeter. At one
point during the early Middle Ages there were over 200 houses and 2 chapels
within the amphitheater, so it became almost a town within a town. In recent
years, most of the doorways have been restored to their Roman appearance, but
some of the medieval towers and blocked up archways remain.
of the most famous sights in Arles is the Romanesque church of St.-Trophime,
built in the twelfth century, with its elaborated sculpted entrance:
The carvings recall the Christians thrown to the lions during the Roman persecutions,
since Arles was one of the oldest of Roman towns with a Christian population.
the church grounds is a beautiful cloister, also from the Romanesque era:
cloister also has beautiful sculptures, dating mostly from the twelfth century:
with all Roman towns, it was forbidden to be buried within a town, so the cemetery
lined the roads
outside the town walls. Remnants of one of the roads and its cemetery still survive at Arles: