(Chassenon) Charente, France.
This commune is crossed by the D 29 road.
The present village replaced the Cassinomagus of antiquity, which is mentioned in the Peutinger Table
grew up beside the great Gallo-Roman monuments that
had remained intact, and especially outside what we now
know to have been a sacred area, although no texts
or inscriptions have come down to us giving precise information. It measured ca. 600 m E-W, ca. 350 m N-S.
The wall around this sacred area is still standing to the
N and S; the latter section is 450 m long and 2 m high
at certain points. Inside the wall were those elements
necessary in a rural sanctuary, probably Celtic in tradition:
1. To the W: a temple, known locally as Montélu.
Only its cella seems to have been excavated; we have a
report dated 1844-48, and from a careful study of the
remains of the monument it appears to be scientific and
accurate. The author points out that “the plan of this
curious building is an octagon forming a huge gallery
that is reached by four ramps placed at the four cardinal
points. . . . In the middle of the octagon is the cella;
its wall is round inside and octagonal outside.”
2. To the NW: an amphitheater that was badly and
incompletely excavated over a century ago and which
has unfortunately been used as a quarry. The 1844-48
archaeologist noted that “the plan is elliptical” and that
“the great diameter of the arena is 60 m, the small one
3. To the E: two small buildings, carelessly excavated
in the past, possibly fana.
4. Equidistant (230 m) from the great temple (Montélu) and the two little fana (?), the baths, which remain nearly complete.
5. More or less in the middle, a huge esplanade or
forum, probably a meeting-place for the pilgrims who
came to take the waters.
Since 1958 work has gone forward on the baths, both
to expose and to salvage them. Some of the walls still
stand 9 m above the bed of the aqueducts, of which
there is a whole network in the basements. They are
double, public bath buildings, with matching rooms on
either side of a central axis. Among them are the functional rooms, which are perfectly designed for their intended purposes; the furnaces, for heating by the hypocaust system; the cold pool, with its floor and facings
of white marble; and part of the great swimming pool,
several dozen meters long.
Vaulted and dark underground rooms occupy the
greater part of the lower floor. There are ca. 20 Roman
vaults, still showing traces of the planks upon which
they were formed. Some of the vaults of these cellars
held up the lower floor of the hypocausts, and higher
ones supported the floors of the cold rooms, making
it possible to pass on one level from the hot to the cold
rooms. But the underground rooms clearly had another
function, one that was dictated by the circulation of
water, the principal element of the sanctuary. The passages linking the rooms are not only narrow and sloping, which Vitruvius recommended as the best way to decant water, but they are staggered so as to break the
flow and force the impurities in the water to settle to
the maximum extent. Moreover, the layer of mud, 0.8 m
thick on the average, that reached the level of the aqueducts in these underground rooms confirms that water
circulated in them.
The Musée de Rochechouart (Haute-Vienne) houses
the finds made at Chassenon at the end of the 19th and
the beginning of the 20th c.
J.-H. Michon, Statistique monumentale
de la Charente
(1844) 175-92; J.-H. Moreau, Recueil
de textes sur les ruines gallo-romaines de Chassenon
(1958); id., Comptes rendus annuels de fouilles et
recherches à Chassenon
(11 have been published so far);
id., Description et essai d'explication d'un ensemble gallo-romain unique en France
; H-P. Eydoux, Resurrection
de la Gaule
(1961) 251-78; M. Vauthey et al., “A propos
de certaines figurines en terre blanche: ex-voto thermal
répresentant un homme le bras gauche en écharpe”
(found at Chassenon), Revue Archeologique du Centre