The Arch of Germanicus, often cited as one of the 10 most beautiful Gallo-Roman vestiges…
The Arch of Germanicus, often cited as one of the 10 most beautiful Gallo-Roman vestiges, almost disappeared… When the old bridge was demolished in 1843, the monument was rescued by Prosper Mérimée. It was relocated and reassembled on the reconfigured embankment.
Erected on the main square, the Arch of Germanicus stands as the symbol of Romanization and of the town of Saintes. This monumental gateway was built in 18-19 AD at the entrance to the Roman bridge by which people entered the town.
The imposing Arch of Germanicus indicated the importance of the town. Set up on the right bank, when the town spread out on the left bank, the arch was the main point of access. With its two archways, it organized traffic moving into and out of the town.
It also commemorated and symbolized the completion of the Via Agrippa, the ancient road connecting Lugdunum (Lyon), the capital of Gaul, to Mediolanum (Saintes), the capital of Aquitaine. The commanding arch, standing nearly 15 metres tall and crowned by its imperial statues, was designed to impress travellers and demonstrate the grandeur and the power of Rome.
Meant to be demolished around 1840, along with the old mediaeval bridge which was in a state of dangerous disrepair, it was rescued after Victor Hugo intervened during a visit to Saintes in September 1843 and to his friend Prosper Mérimée, Inspector General of Historic Monuments, with the support of members of the recently created Saintes Archaeological Society. The arch would become a listed historic monument in July 1905.