Roman ruins in the North… Can't believe your ears? Come see it with your own eyes! Small town about twenty minutes from Valenciennes, Bavay, formerly Bagacum, shone in the 15st century, at the crossroads of the great Roman roads of the North of the Empire. An exceptional site, which absolutely had to be highlighted. It's been done since September XNUMX, following two years of work! Follow the leader…
Bavay, one of the largest Roman forums
Between the XNUMXst and XNUMXnd centuries, Bagacum was a very important pole in the region : seven roads converged there, allowing it to support its prestigious status as administrative capital. Then, the city was abandoned in favor of the neighboring Cambrai. The forum served as a fortress and has been largely dismantled by archaeologists since ...
Two thousand years later, the stones of Bavay forum bear witness to a sacred hour of glory. The remarkable extent of the forum (240 meters long, for a total of 2,5 hectares!) Makes it one of the largest in the Empire. Basically, its basilica is also one of the largest: its 98 meters long gives it even greater proportions than those of Carthage.
The researchers suppose that the Romans built this colossal together to show their power and anchor their presence, facing the Gallic people of the region, the Nerviens, somewhat reluctant to submit.
This forum gives an idea of what this place of life was like in Roman times. It was a tripartite forum, like the imperial forums in Rome. He combined three crucial functions in the daily life of the Gallo-Romans, namely judicial, administrative and religious functions. One must imagine that the slab of the forum was covered with blue stone, an elegant stone, typical of the region, the color of which is a beautiful bluish gray.
The visit to the forum is completed by a museum, which gives an account of daily life in Roman times: vestiges of course, but also a reconstruction of the forum in an interactive three-dimensional film. The aim is to put the remains into perspective with respect to what is still visible today.
What's up ?
The two years of work have borne fruit. Those who already knew Bavay will be surprised to see how much dynamism and clarity the site has gained. The novelties revolve around a new name, the Bavay antique forum, which attests to a desire to place the forum at the heart of the site, as it was the heart of the city.
Contemporary materials are added to the remains to suggest the disappeared constructions, the heights or the location of the different places of activity. Little more, the guided tour of the site is included in the entrance fee: why deprive yourself of additional anecdotes?
In addition to the forum, the enhancement project also includes a new organization of the museum. Different thematic spaces present a specific feature of the public and private life of the Romans of Bagacum: how did women live? The slaves ? The children?
One of the flagship ambitions is to make Bavay a family site, suitable for all audiences. Games are offered along the tour. Fun, the museum organizes workshops and courses for children. The temporary exhibitions also meet these requirements: as part of the “Murmurs Walls” exhibition, visitors themselves discover the graffiti with a flashlight in a dark room.
The same goes for school children: a wide range of living history activities are offered. If you visit on weekdays, don't be surprised to see young people performing military maneuvers, like making a turtle with shields under the command (in Latin!) Of a centurion.
This new scenography includes a new version of the film in 3 dimensions : the setting of the film is none other than the ancient forum of Bavay. Thanks to a console, spectators can interact and guide the hero of the story in their choices: a fun way to realize the proportions of the site and restore the place to its former dynamism.
The fortified town of Quesnoy, Cambrésis and Avesnois
What to visit around Bavay? First of all, the fortified town of Quesnoy. The young Vauban, just 21 years old, built his first fortifications in Le Quesnoy. Still inexperienced, the architect wiped the plaster here: a few youthful mistakes, invisible to laymen, which help to understand the workings of the site's construction and military strategies at the time of the Sun King.
Quesnoy was the scene of many clashes: it was also occupied by the Germans for four years during the Second World War. Liberated by the New Zealanders, the city still maintains close links with this distant country, as evidenced by the Memorial in honor of its fighters.
Far from being an austere city, Le Quesnoy is a charming village to discover. To limit the spread of fires, the houses have different heights. A curious blend, seen from the top of the ramparts. The fortifications are highlighted by a walk around them: the majesty of the walls, in red colors, contrast with the surrounding greenery and water. Here, we come to breathe with pleasure!
A turn to Cambrai ? You certainly know his famous nonsense, and you would make a big one if you did not take the time to stop there. In the city of Fénelon, you should not miss the museum, whose richness of the collection is matched only by the intelligence of the museography. If the good weather smiles on you, think about strolling in the streets and discovering the delicacy of the churches ...
Au Cateau-Cambrésis, birthplace of Henri Matisse, do not miss the museum dedicated to him with the rich collection of paintings by the master.
Learn more about Matisse in the North.
Finally, in Avesnois, Maroilles, home of the famous cheese, is much more than a point of reference for gourmets: this partially classified village, a springboard to several walks in the surroundings, will delight you with its harmony. A pretty little church, a cute little mill, a pretty bandstand ...
To prepare for your stay, consult our Nord-Pas-de-Calais sheet.
Northern Tourist Office
Bavay ancient forum
Quesnoy tourist office
City of Cambrai
City of Maroilles
Another Roman site in Nord Pas-de-Calais:
In Arras, you can also take a look at the remains of Nemetacum: these few stones give an idea of Roman constructions in the XNUMXrd century.