The Old Archbishops’ Palace Part One: Roman Narbonne

The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

The formidable Roman history of the French city of Narbonne was, until recently, covered in the Old Palace building by the cathedral.  It was a fitting home, but it is, sadly, no more.  Come 2020, the objects will be in their new home, the NarboVia museum.  This is not a bad thing, because while the museum had some fabulous objects, they were perhaps not showcased as well as they should be.

Quite frankly if Nimes, with its Roman collection, got to have a brand-spanking new museum, then Narbonne deserves it too.  In some ways, there is better stuff here – they have an extraordinary group of frescoes, for a start, and that, as Roman-fans everywhere will agree, makes for a special experience.  These varied and often beautiful decorations were all found in the local area, showing that even in the provinces the quality of Roman domestic art could be very high.

Anyway, I’ll not bother writing about the museum and the building – it seems somewhat redundant.  As it is, please check out some of the cool stuff that will hopefully be on show at the new museum.

A medieval face in the wall of The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Piece of charred timber and nails from the framework of a house on the rue Cuvier, Roman era, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Window pane, 2nd/3rd century AD; air duct and lead water pipes, Roman era, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Tile maker’s stamp, Roman era, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Tile maker’s stamp, Roman era, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Game incised on a fragment of tile, Roman era, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Remains of charred reeds, end of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France. This is the back of the painted plaster from the border of a vault, showing the imprints of the bundles of reeds onto which it was applied.

Central motif of a mosaic pavement with satyrs, end of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Opus Sectile pavement, 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Fragment of an oscillum, Roman era, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Inscription, Roman era, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Graffiti showing a gladiator named Faustus, 1st/2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Graffiti of a gladiator, Roman era, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Graffiti, Roman era, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Partial reconstruction of an archaeological site showing deposits of layers of painted plaster, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Parts of decoration with incised sketch marks, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Parts of a decoration showing Sinopia red sketch marks on the under-layer of the plaster, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Decoration with traces of gold leaf, end of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Uncompleted decoration, second half of the 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France. The work was destroyed by fire, at which point only the upper part of the wall surface had received the final fresh layer of plaster.

Band with a dolphin, c40AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Fragment of 3rd style decoration, Roman era, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Fresco with egg and dart frieze, 1st century BC, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Mosaic and reconstruction of a wall, second half of 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Detail of a stroppy pigeon from the reconstruction of a wall, second half of 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Detail of a satyr and goat from the reconstruction of a wall, second half of 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Reconstruction of a wall, second half of 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Detail of a huge squirrel and cupid from the reconstruction of a wall, second half of 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Deer and knot of ribbons, second half of 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Candelabra decorated with ribbons, second half of 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

A maenad as the central ornament of a ceiling painting, end of 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Detail of a maenad as the central ornament of a ceiling painting, end of 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Satyr mask at the top of a candelabrum, c60/70 AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Floral patterns, c60/70AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Floral pattern, c60/70AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Garland, c60/70AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Peacock, 60/70 AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Detail of the peacock, 60/70 AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Situla hanging from a garland, 60/70 AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Decoration along a vault, end of 1st century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Painting of foliage and figures holding garlands, end of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Fragments of a face, second half of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Fragments of a face, second half of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Fragment of a face, second half of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Painted inscription, second half of the second century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Portrait of a Dioscur, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Cupids hunting, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Vault decoration, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Partial reconstruction of a wall of a triclinium, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France. Depicted is a sacrifice scene with Genius and Victory along with polychrome architectural features, and a bust of Apollo wreathed with laurel at the top right.

Partial reconstruction of Victory and Genius making a sacrifice, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Detail of the shoes of Genius making a sacrifice, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Bust of Apollo, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Middle of a standing figure, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Frieze with masks and birds, second half of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Geometric pattern, second half of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Cupid in a medallion, second half of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Ceiling coffer decorated with idealised landscape, end of 2nd/beginning of 3rd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

Partial reconstitution of a wall with a goddess in the upper panel, end of 2nd century AD, The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France

…please click here for Part Two…

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