The Roman cemetery, archaeological site of Saint Seurin is the oldest in the history of Bordeaux, after the Palais Gallien and the amphitheater of the Gallo-Roman Burdigala. Go back in time with us, on the way!
Say, tell me the story of the archaeological site of Saint Seurin
The site, located below the Saint-Seurin Basilica, was the subject of several explorations and excavations, carried out by clergymen as well as by historians Around 1910, the historians Paul Courteault and Camille Jullian updated a part of this vast necropolis (cemetery), made up of superimposed graves.
Today, the site laid out for the visit is still the subject of exciting research to better understand its history. We thus learn that it contains the first Christian burials in Bordeaux dating back to the 14th century AD. The cemetery will be used without interruption over a period of nearly XNUMX centuries! It extended well beyond the spotted site, partly covering the place of the Martyrs of the Resistance, that is to say.
Initially, it was an open-air cemetery. The space explored yielded 435 different burial graves: graves in the ground, graves in wooden chests, graves under tiles, etc. The most numerous burials are in limestone or marble sarcophagi with thick walls sometimes bearing an engraved decoration, dating from the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries.
Many objects were found in the tombs:
bone combs, ceramics, glass vials, coins,
all valuable clues for the dating of burials.
A stone sarcophagus, discovered in the necropolis in 1909 by Paul Courteault and Camille Jullian, now kept in the Aquitaine Museum, deserves special attention. On its lid is sealed a marble plaque engraved with the Christian symbol surrounded by the alpha and the omega and two doves each holding an olive branch in their beak. These images attest to the Christian faith of the deceased. Below is the Latin inscription: "Here lies Flavinus, of the body of the Mattiaci seniores, who lived forty-five years and left his wife and sons in great despair". This is the only tomb in the necropolis of Saint-Seurin accompanied by an epitaph.
Many legends surround the site and more particularly the crypt of the church. Tradition attests to the presence of the remains of many saints (Seurin and Martial) and saints (Véronique and Bénédicte). This question still arouses much debate among historians. In any case, the pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela very early recognized in this cemetery of Saint-Seurin one of the high places of Christianity: is it not in Saint-Seurin that Charlemagne places the olifant of Roland, his nephew and buried the hearts of the brave soldiers who died in battle in Roncesvalles?
The Roman cemetery (archaeological site)
To see, to do, near the Roman cemetery
The Gallien Palace
Close to the old Roman cemetery, the Palais Gallien is the oldest Roman vestige inherited from ancient Burdigala. In honor of Emperor Gallienus, to whom it owes its name, this amphitheater was built in the middle of the 20nd century AD. “Little Rome”, as it was nicknamed, had arenas that could accommodate more than 000 spectators and the monument stood at the time, away from the city. Entertainment died down with the end of the Roman Empire. The building served as a stone quarry from the Middle Ages.