Nice-Cimiez Archaeological Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Nice-Cimiez Archaeological Museum

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

The Nice-Cimiez Archaeological Museum houses artefacts from the ancient Roman city of Cemenelum.

Peta Stamper

24 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Nice-Cimiez Archaeological Museum

The Nice-Cimiez Archaeological Museum is a museum encompassing the former Roman ruins of Cimiez, or Cemenelum. Today, visitors can walk around the ruins before viewing artefacts from the site in the museum.

Nice-Cimiez Archaeological Museum history

The Nice-Cimiez Archaeological Museum was built on the hill of Cimiez, former ancient city of Cemenelum, the hub of the Gallo-Roman dominion of the region Alpes Maritimae. Cemenelum was founded in 14 BC as a military and administrative centre on the Via Julia Augusta.

During the Roman occupation, 1st to 3rd century baths occupied the site, as well as residential streets, shops and an amphitheatre capable of seating 5,000 spectators, features characterising the day-to-day life of Romans. The baths included a palaestra for exercise, the cold water frigidarium, warm tepidarium and even hotter caldarium, as well as the laconicum for dry heat.

In the 5th century, the Roman baths were no longer used and an early-Christian church was built inside, including a baptistry. The city of Cemenelum was at the time an important rival to Nice, both existing separately until the time of the Lombard rule, a Germanic people who dominated the northern Italian peninsula between 568 to 774 AD.

The baths were excavated gradually from the 19th century, first by Nice architect François Brun, in 1943 during World War Two, and fully between 1954 and 1970. The  museum was inaugurated in 1989, and succeeded the original museum of 1960 in the villa of Arènes (now the Matisse museum). It was built to display archaeological findings from the Cemenelum site, including tools, jewellery, coins, sculpture and Roman pottery or stelae.

Nice-Cimiez Archaeological Museum today

The on-site museum of the Cimiez archaeological site provides you with a route through the site, guiding you through the Roman baths. You must enter the museum to reach Cemenelum, walking through the entrance arch of the amphitheatre from the car park. Then, walk around the impressive arches of the amphitheatre and take a seat where Romans did almost two millennia ago.

Inside the museum there are many items found on the site during the excavations, as well as a scale model of the three baths making it easier to visualise them as they originally existed.

Getting to Nice-Cimiez Archaeological Museum

You can get to the museum using the 5, 16, 18, 33, 40 or 70 bus routes, stopping at Arénes / Musée Matisse. From the nearest tram stop, Valrose Universite, it’s a 23 minutes 2km walk. There is car parking on-site.

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