1. The site of an extensive 1st-4th-century villa with baths in Brittany.

A luxury Gallo-Roman villa in Brittany

Preventive archaeological excavations carried out in Langrolay-sur-Rance (Côtes d'Armor) in Brittany in north-west France have revealed vestiges of the residential part (pars urbana) of a vast Gallo-Roman villa.
This is a remarkable discovery both because of its size (around 1500sqm of liveable space), and the exceptionally good state of conservation of its baths. Evidence of a similar, smaller villa (1000sqm) were discovered in the nearby village of Taden in 2005, but nothing on this scale.

Located on a plateau overlooking the River Rance, the newly excavated villa was built using a model adopted by wealthy Romanised Gauls. It was made up of several buildings arranged in a U-shaped plan around an open courtyard. The main building had two storeys and some of the rooms were heated. The courtyard, which probably had a garden, was bordered on three sides by a colonnaded gallery, and the surrounding areas were landscaped. The oldest part of the complex dates to the 1st century AD and the villa went through a number of alterations up until the 4th century AD.


2. Finds include bronze fibulae and a pottery fragment.

The luxurious private baths (thermae) extended over around 400sqm and had underfloor heating (hypocaust). Their state of preservation enables visitors to reconstruct the route followed by users: they undressed in the changing room, then walked along a gallery leading to a foot bath (pediluvium) giving access to two large pools, one of cold water and the other heated. After they bathed, they entered the caldarium, the hottest room, equipped with a hot-water bath and a sauna. Next came the tepidarium, a warm room where they could wash and be massaged, and the session ended with a bracing dip in the cold bath or frigidarium.

The walls and ceiling of the thermae were decorated with paintings inlaid with shells, a characteristic of Armorica (the Roman geographical zone including Brittany). Similar decorative fragments have been found at a number of sites in Brittany, but in much smaller quantities. The Langrolay fragments constitute an unprecedented collection and will enable specialists to learn more about this ornamental style, which appeared in the 3rd century AD.

The Langrolay villa was probably the country home of a rich, prominent family of the Curiosolite people whose capital was Fanum Martis, now Corseul. This villa, which lies some 14km from Fanum Martis, could be reached either by road or by boat on the River Rance sailing upstream towards the ancient port of Taden. The present-day village of Langrolay developed around the villa's pars rustica or agricultural complex.
• (www.inrap.fr/opulence-romaine-langrolay-sur-rance-11808)
Nicole Benazeth


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