Temple de Mercure - History and Facts | History Hit

Temple de Mercure

Orcines, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

The ruins of a temple built atop a mountain called Puy de Dome outside the Gallic city of Augustonemetum (now Clermont-Ferrand).

Peta Stamper

26 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Temple de Mercure

The Temple of Mercury at Puy de Dome is a Gallo-Roman temple built in the 2nd century at Puy de Dome, outside the Gallic city of Augustonemetum (now Clermont-Ferrand).

Temple de Mercure history

The Temple de Mercure was built around 50 BC on the summit of one of the youngest volcanoes in the Massif Central in France, and was dedicated to the worship of Roman god Mercury, patron of finances, travel and guide to the underworld. By this time, Julius Caesar had conquered much of southern Gaul, after which Gaul became further culturally integrated into the Roman Empire.

A 1st century temple was destroyed around 150 BC, the materials used to build a second temple lower down the slope, remains today. Coins found at the site suggest that the temple was in use in the 4th and 5th centuries.

The Temple de Mercure site was uncovered in 1872 during construction of a meteorological observatory. Excavations began soon after between 1873 and 1878 by the Academy of Sciences of Clermont-Ferrand. They soon lead to a second series of excavations which found a small annex temple and statuette of Mercury, confirming the place of worship. It was not until 1886 that steps were taken to protect the temple, becoming a historic monument in 1889.

From 2008, a partial reconstruction project was begun led by the state and department. The latest phase continued into 2014, reconstructing the terrace supported by the surrounding wall. The aim of reconstruction was to preserve the ruins which are exposed to harsh conditions, however previous excavators among others criticised the project for interfering with the ruins.

Temple de Mercure today

Today, the ruins of the Temple de Mercure are only able to be seen from a distance although access is free. There is a nearby museum giving a comprehensive history of the Puy-de-Dome, and provides some shelter from the windy summit. While most information displayed is French, there are audio guides available for English-speakers.

Be sure you bring comfortable shoes if climbing up to the Temple.

Getting to Temple de Mercure

To reach the Temple de Mercure, follow the Muleteer Trail of the pilgrims marked in yellow. The climb takes 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on whether you start at the Col de Ceyssat or site house. Or you can get the train, Panoramique des Domes. If driving, the station and parking for Temple de Mercure is just off the D68, half an hour drive from Clermont-Ferrand.

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