A Town of Beauty and Passion : Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments

The town of Arles lies on the Rhone River in southern France.
There is a Roman Arena in the city centre. This amazing building has 60 interlinking arches. The arena seated 25,000 spectators who watched gladiatorial combats to the death. This Roman bath was built during the 4th Century A.D. The baths were a most popular social venue at the time and visitors enjoyed the luxury of under floor heating. Successive Roman Emperors adored the town and built numerous buildings one after another. Arles developed into a city only second in size to Rome itself. Arles centuries later became the capital of Provence and continued to thrive. This is Saint-Trophime Cathedral. It was built in the 12th century and is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture.
Columns are decorated with carvings depicting stories from the Bible. The traditional folk costume in this region is noted for its white hair accessories and white-laced dresses.

Two great painters left their own portraits of the Provence style of dress. One of them was Vincent Van Gogh. The other one was Paul Gauguin.

The two renowned painters lived together in the town at the same time. They often went to the necropolis of Alyscamps to draw and sketch. This cemetery is part of the World Heritage inscription and is believed to enshrine Saints. It was known as one of the most famous cemeteries in medieval Europe.

Here are two images of Alyscamps by both painters. Van Gogh preferred to portray the landscape as it is, choosing a long path as the focus of the painting. Gauguins approach varies greatly – local women are also depicted. Van Gogh painted 189 works in Arles.

The Yellow House was where both artists lived. Langlois Bridge is a painting of a drawbridge on the outskirts of town. Van Goghs Sunflower series was also painted in Arles. The masters vivid use of colour was influenced by the sheer brightness of the light in Arles. The city is a place of passion.

The town that has fascinated Emperors and which has been loved by artists, continues to captivate with its beauty.

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

medievalverse magazine