previous next

SAINT-AUBIN-SUR-MER Calvados, France.

A watering place on the English Channel, 16 km N of Caen. The shore, which faces N, is bordered to the W by a cliff about 8 m high, a headland known today as Cap Romain. The Saint-Aubin promontory was occupied well before the Romans came; various finds from the Paleolithic Age to the Bronze Age are evidence of a very ancient settlement. However, the site, which was covered by villas and hotels in the 19th c., was never systematically explored. During WW II a German soldier started excavations. The building of three blockhouses permitted the ground to be opened up but at the same time limited any real archaeological explorations. The site was thoroughly excavated only in part and in the face of great difficulties.

Below a cemetery of the Frankish period was a Gallic fanum dating from the beginning of the 2d c., along with its cult statue, as well as traces of an earlier Celtic sanctuary, a late Gallo-Roman villa built around the Gallic temple, and a bath building, perhaps belonging to the villa.

The excavations revealed the foundations of a square building 11 m on each side, surrounding a second structure, similar in shape but only 5 m on a side. The complex is oriented to the four points of the compass. The foundations are 0.7-0.9 m thick, and remains of a paved stone floor are still visible. The monument is a small temple similar to those in the Seine-Maritime. The only evidence for the date is a sherd of terra sigillata dating from the 2d c. A.D. To the E were some foundations, probably of an annex to the fanum.

The N wall of the fanum was later split open to make room for a well. Here, at a depth of 2.5-3.4 m, were found five fragments of a statue of a seated goddess with two children, one on either side; the statue is now at the Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines at Caen.

Traces of a foundation trench oriented E-W were discovered under the Gallo-Roman fanum. Below the stone floor of the Gallo-Roman temple were found some broken foundation stones and a great quantity of charcoal. These belonged to a structure earlier than the fanum; there is no indication as to its purpose since the foundations were destroyed when the fanum was built. However, the fact that religious monuments tend to be erected in the same places suggests that it is a very old religious building. Whether the fanum was isolated or connected to a settlement we do not know.

A complex of structures was found near the sanctuary, but they belong to the end of the 3d c. A.D.: a villa rustica with two towers connected by a gallery, and with a great hall in the rear. It was built in two stages: the first complex was put up in the second half of the 3d c., and it was then that the well was added where the fragments of the statue were found. Towards the end of the 4th c. (as evidenced by coins of Constantine and Valerius) the villa was completed by two symmetrical towers joined by a gallery-facade. The foundations of the building, 11 m square, were well built; portions of the vertical section were still standing. The floor was paved with mosaic. Two rectangular annexes containing furnaces have been uncovered to E and W. A paved pathway led from the bath building to the well. Two apses were added to this complex, probably when the villa was redesigned at the end of the 4th c.

When the villa was destroyed (exact date unknown) the site was not abandoned. The discovery of Merovingian tombs in a number of places proves that it continued to be occupied.


De Vesly, Les fana ou petits temples gallo-romains de la région normande (1909); E. Eblé, “Découvertes à Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer,” Gallia 6, 2 (1948) 365-83PI; H. Van Effenterre, “Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer,” ibid. 9 (1951) 83-84; R. Lantier, “Recherches Archéologiques en Gaule en 1950,” ibid. 10 (1952) 119-20.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: