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GISACUM (Le Vieil-Evreux) Eure, France.

A Roman town 8 km SE of Evreux on a plateau 133 m high and covering an area of ca. 140 ha in the communes of Le Vieil-Evreux, Miserey, Cierrey, and La Trinité. The site mentioned in the 9th c. Life of Saint Taurinus, was identified when the name was found on two inscriptions discovered at Le Vieil-Evreux in 1828 and 1837. Gallic coins and some strata of Iron Age II found near the sanctuary, baths, and water tower make it clear that there was a large settlement in pre-Roman times. From the beginning of the 1st c. A.D. huge monuments were put up, including a sanctuary which was soon burned down, perhaps at the end of the same century, and never rebuilt. Gisacum flourished through the 2d c., but in the 4th c. only a small area near the baths seems to have been occupied. In the Middle Ages the village of Le Vieil-Evreux grew up around the sanctuary and theater.

The site has been excavated since the early 19th c.: first the theater, the baths, a large building with mosaics, and the aqueduct were found, then the sanctuary, which contained two large bronze statues and an inscription on a bronze tablet. Further excavations in the first half of this century have clarified the plans of the sanctuary and the baths. In 1934-39 a site thought to be the necropolis of Le Vieil-Evreux was identified as a spring-sanctuary that became a cemetery in the Merovingian period. It is a square fanum in a sacred enclosure, a type common in Normandy; it exhibits two types of construction, the earliest from the Gallic period. Although close to Gisacum (Cracouville), the fanum is independent of it.

Gisacum is quadrilateral in shape: three sides have a fairly narrow (100-200 m) strip of houses around the edge which becomes noticeably wider near the baths. The E side is ca. 950 m, the N one 1650 m, while the W side, 1250 m long, abuts on the baths and continues 550 m S. The sanctuary and theater are aligned on the 1200-in S side, which is backed by the baths. The building known as the Champ des dés is 200 m NE of the baths; part of the site is strewn with cubes of mosaic. Immediately N of this building aerial photography has revealed strips of paving in a grid pattern, marking off plots of land; there are no traces of buildings, but many potsherds and oyster shells. The ground also shows traces of a huge rectangle. The area may have been a fairground with an esplanade for public meetings. The center of the quadrilateral shows no signs of occupation, and the complex of sanctuary, theater, and Champ des dés building is isolated from the residential areas. An aqueduct carried the waters of the Iton river from ca. 30 km away; it started above ground but ran for the most part underground, ending near the baths. Here it split into branches which carried water to all the built-up areas. Ancient roads from Evreux and Lisieux, Rouen, Amiens, Paris, Sens, Chartres, Le Mans, and Tours met at Gisacum.

The sanctuary (incorrectly called a basilica) was built in a vast enclosure, incompletely explored, and had a facade 155 m long. It consisted of three rectangular cella temples facing E, linked by a 35 m wide complex of rooms and galleries. The temples at the N and S ends are 28 x 20 m, the middle one is 35 x 25 m. The sanctuary seems to have been richly decorated: the ruins have yielded a mask made of sheet bronze dating from the first half of the 1st c. B.C., some later (end of 1st c. A.D.) bronze statues of Jupiter and Apollo, and a fragment of a bronze tablet with an inscription in Latin and Gallic.

The theater, of the theater-amphitheater type, faced E. The facade was 100 m long, the radius of the cavea 26 m, and that of the orchestra 22 m. Access was by the axial aisle and six vomitoria. The tiers were apparently made of earth rather than stone. The baths were 100 m long. In front of the E section is a porticoed courtyard 75 m square. The building of the Champ des dés stretches over ca. 205 m; it consists of courtyards and rooms of various sizes, some of them paved with geometric mosaics.

The greater part of Gisacum still awaits excavation: the plan of roads and aqueducts has not been determined, nor the date and function of the sanctuary. The unexplored residential area includes several well-constructed buildings apparently of the 2d c.

During Gallic independence Gisacum was the religious and spiritual center of the Aulerci Eburovices and the other Aulerci tribes, the Cenomanni and Diablintes, and as such it probably continued to play an important role for part of the 1st c. A.D. After the Romans set up an administrative capital at Mediolanum, pilgrimages provided the only activity at Gisacum. It never really became a city.


F. Rever, Mémoire sur les ruines du Vieil-Evreux (1827); T. Bonnin, Antiquités gallo-romaines des Eburoviques (1860); E. Espérandieu, “Les fouilles du Vieil-Evreux,” Bulletin de la Société française des fouilles archéologiques 3 (1913); 4 (1921); J. Mathière, La civitas des Aulerci Eburovices à l'époque gallo-romaine (1925); H. Lamiray, “Le Vieil-Evreux. Fouilles de la basilique de 1911 à 1914,” Bulletin de la Société normande d'études préistoriques 27 (1931); M. Baudot, “Premier rapport sur les fouilles de Cracouville-Le-Vieil-Evreux,” ibid. 30 (1936); id., “Historique des fouilles d'Alexis Robillard et de Théodose Bonnin au Vieil-Evreux (1835-1842),” ibid. 31 (1939); id., “Le problème des ruines du Vieil-Evreux,” Gallia 1 (1943); J. Le Gall, “Utilisation de la couverture photographique aérienne de la France: l'aqueduc du Vieil-Evreux . . . ,” Gallia 12 (1954); H. Bellenger, “Le prolongement de l'aqueduc du Vieil-Evreux au delà de Coulonges,” Bulletin de la Société normande d'études préhistoriques 38 (1965).


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