The Roman archaelogical site of Cassinomagus
Today it may be a little off the beaten track but back in Roman times Cassinomagus (today known as Chassenon in the Charente) was of huge strategic importance. On the Peutinger map, created in the fourth and fifth centuries and showing the road network of the Roman empire, the garrison town of Cassinomagus lies on the 'Agrippan Way' – one of five major roads built in Roman Gaul by Marcus Agrippa in 27BC on the orders of Caesar Augustus when he was Rome's defence minister – and is the second most important town after Limoges on the route between Lyon and Saintes.
Situated on a hill it sprawled over 300 hectares and today there are well-preserved remains of a number of public buildings - the sanctuary of Montélu, 49 toilets, two 'small temples', an amphitheatre and baths.
The baths are the big attraction. Used until the 3rd century, they are enormous, stretching over 1.5 hectares. They were discovered in 1958 and have been extensively excavated. The best preserved baths from Roman times – some of the original floor tiles still exist and walls rise seven metres - much of it is now open to the public.
Archaeologists believe they were used for bathing and as a meeting place, but also for therapy. Over three levels, the basement contained the sewers while the ground floor was the working area for the furnaces that heated the water and solariums, and general maintenance. Above was where the bathing took place, with double room and spaces creating areas for those there for relaxation and those at the bath for the health purposes. The latter are thought to have first over-heated their body in a sauna, then immersing themselves in cold bathx or outdoor swimming pool.
Today, Cassiomangus also has gardens showcasing plants that were used during Roman times, from medicinal to aromatic plants and decorative ones.
A superb new architecturally-designed visitor design explains the history and information on the ruins.
2012 opening times:
20 February - 30 April and 15 September - 24 November: 2pm - 5.30pm. Guided visits at 2.30pm and 4pm.
1 May - 30 June and 1-14 September: 10am-6.30pm. Guided visits at 11.30am, 2pm, 3.30pm and 5pm.
1 July-31 August: 10am-7pm. Guided visits at 10.30am, 11.45am, 2pm, 3.30pm and 5pm.
25 November - mid February 2013: closed except to school groups by reservation
Tarif A - park and gardens: €5 and €2.50
Tarif B - park, gardens and audioguide: €5.50 and €3
Tarif C - park, gardens, guided visit, activities day: €7 and €4.50
Journées patrimoine, 14 July and 15 August: €3.50 (adult) and €1.50 (child)
Tel: 05 45 89 32 21