The ancient name
of the site is unknown; in the 9th c. it was called Vicaria
Excidulense. This very ancient site has yielded prehistoric remains but is known in particular for its important Merovingian necropolis.
A settlement of some importance stood on the site of
the modern village in Gallo-Roman times, and one can
still see traces of two Roman temples on the central
square. Excavations have revealed the sites of a theater,
a fortified camp, and the substructures of many villas.
Cippi from the ancient Gallo-Roman cemetery are now
in the Musée des Antiquaires de l'Ouest at Poitiers, and
finds from recent digs in a little museum at Civaux itself.
The enigma of Civaux is its immense early mediaeval
necropolis, where burials took place almost continuously
from the end of the Roman period on. It contained
thousands of stone sarcophagi, trapezoidal with monolithic lids that were usually decorated with a band in
the middle with three bars across it, a very common
motif in Poitou. The sarcophagi were placed on the
ground or buried a little below the surface. Some graves
of a different type have recently been discovered deeper
down; these are burials in open ground, in dry-stone
chests partly surrounded by stones. Why so many tombs
were crowded together in this way remains a mystery.
A legend has grown up that this is the resting-place of
Clovis' warriors, who died fighting Alaric in 507, but
texts refute it.
Besides these Christian tombs there are other remains
of interest for the history of Christianity: the Merovingian apse of the present church, traces of a baptistery, a Christian epitaph of the 4th c., an ancient oratory dedicated to St. Sylvain, and an ancient place of pilgrimage.
F. Eygun, Gallia
19,2 (1961); 21,2
(1963); J. C. Papinot, Notice sur les vestiges archéologiques de Civaux
J. C. PAPINOT