La Maison Carrée - History and Facts | History Hit

La Maison Carrée

Nimes, Occitania, France

The Maison Carrée in Nîmes is a staggeringly well preserved Roman temple, and one of the best-preserved examples of a Roman building anywhere in the world.

Peta Stamper

14 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About La Maison Carrée

La Maison Carrée or the ‘Square House’ in the French city of Nîmes is a staggeringly well-preserved Roman temple dating back to the reign of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus.

One of the best-preserved examples of a Roman building anywhere in the world, for fans of Ancient Rome to the casual traveller, La Maison Carrée is simply a must-see site when in Nîmes.

La Maison Carrée history

Originally built in 16 BC by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa – the close friend and confidant of Emperor Augustus – the building was dedicated to Agrippa’s sons (and the adopted heirs of Augustus) Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar between 4 and 7 AD. The temple would have dominated the forum in the Roman city of Nîmes with its richly decorated columns and friezes.

During this period, as Augustus consolidated his hold on power and confirmed his status as the first true Roman Emperor, he undertook many building programmes across the Empire. La Maison Carrée was a splendid example of this project. During this period, Agrippa was also responsible for the construction of the original Pantheon in Rome.

La Maison Carrée was lucky to survive the fall of the Empire, mostly due to the building becoming a church in the 4th century. The inscription dedicating the temple was removed during the medieval period. However, in 1758 a local scholar was able to reconstruct the inscription from holes where the original bronze letters had been attached.

Through the ages, La Maison Carrée was used as a consul’s house, stables and the town’s archive. The building has been partly renovated and restored over the years, and during the late 1980s was given a new roof and cleared from all surrounding buildings. With the original forum space recreated, the restored La Maison Carrée remains true to its Roman origins.

La Maison Carrée today

Nowadays, visitors to La Maison Carrée can view this stunning structure from inside and out. You can watch a 23 minute film within the building’s former sanctuary that brings Roman Nîmes back to life. La Maison Carrée is one of several well-preserved Roman sites in Nîmes: the city also boasts a Roman amphitheatre and a grand tower built by Augustus, the Magne Tower.

Across the square, the modern Carrê d’art museum of contemporary art and municipal library – made of glass, steel and concrete – stands in contrast to the ancient temple, celebrating the great age of La Maison Carrée.

Getting to La Maison Carrée

Located in central Nîmes off the A9, A54 and N106 in southern France, La Maison Carrée is accessible by car as there is plenty of nearby parking. Nîmes train station serves the Intercity, TER and TGV lines as well as the TER bus. The station is a 13 minute walk away.

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