Les Alyscamps – Arles - History and Facts | History Hit

Les Alyscamps – Arles

Arles, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, France

Les Alyscamps was a Roman necropolis which now houses a collection of crowded medieval sarcophagi.

Peta Stamper

09 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Les Alyscamps – Arles

Les Alyscamps in the town of Arles in Provence, France, is a site imbued with historical and religious importance which was once one of the most famous necropolises of the ancient world. Originally an Ancient Roman necropolis where prominent figures were laid to rest, most of the thousands of strewn sarcophagi which crowd together in Les Alyscamps actually date back to medieval times.

Today, Les Alyscamps is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage listing of Arles open to visit.

Les Alyscamps – Arles history

From the 4th to the 12th century, Les Alyscamps became a prestigious Christian burial ground, with several bishops having been buried there as well as Saint Genesius – a Roman civil servant beheaded in 303 AD for refusing to persecute Christians. The Alyschamps was along the final segment of the Aurelian Way leading to the city gates, and would have shown-off the sarcophagi and elaborate monuments of wealthy citizens.

The 11th century saw the construction of St. Honorat Priory by Les Alyscamps, as a result of which it became a part of the famous Santiago de Compostela route. This was a Christian pilgrimage to the church of Santiago de Compostela in Spain which travelled through France.

Les Alyscamps – Arles today

Today, visitors can walk through the tree-lined site to see its many tombs and gravestones, most of which are in a fairly poor state, but which together form a hauntingly pretty sight. Surrounding a 12th century medieval church, the necropolis has an undoubtable historical atmosphere, lending itself to be the subject of one of Van Gogh’s paintings.

To see the better preserved of these tombs, go to Arles Archaeological Museum.

Getting to Les Alyschamps – Arles

Not far on foot from the city centre, Les Alychamps is also only a 20 minute walk from Gare d’Arles train station with links to Marseille Saint-Charles and Avignon Centre. Otherwise for those driving, the necropolis is located just off the D570N and N113 through Arles, and is a 50 minute drive to Avignon.

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