Vienne is a small town in southeastern France about 35 kilometers south of Lyon. It was a major center of the Roman Empire and still retains several remnants of its Roman past. If you like seeing historic Roman architecture, this city is well worth a visit.
What to See in Historic Vienne
Our first stop on our very short visit to the city was the tourist center to pick up a map of the city and suggested walks (you can also download the maps online). Then it was on to capture glimpses of the past in the form of a handful of sites around Cathedrale-Saint-Maurice, the centerpiece of the town.
The Cathedral took a long time to be built–starting in the 11th century to the 16th century. It’s architecture is primarily Gothic and Romanesque.
The 13,000-person arena was built between 40 and 50 AD. It was one of the largest urban theaters in the Roman Empire. In addition to holding religious and entertainment events, it was probably used for civic and other official gatherings. Today, it is once again used for entertainment.
This well-preserved marble Corinthian-columned monument was built in 20-10 BC to honor the Emperor and his third wife. It was later transformed into a church, which helped to preserve the building.
Gardens of Cybèle
The archways and foundations of a Roman administrative complex are today within a lovely green space. Subsequent uses of the buildings were as a Middle Age castle and a 1782 theater. The gardens were named for mother goddess Cybele after excavations found part of a bas-relief dedicated to her.
Batie Castle Ruins
Although not Roman, the ruins are a remnant of a 13th-century hilltop fortification. It has been used as a residence for archbishops and a prison.
Tower of Valois
This riverside tower from the medieval city’s wall has battlements and arrowslits. It is not open to the public.