Andematunnum (Langres)

Gallo-Roman gate and walls of Langres.

Andematunnum was one of the principal settlements (oppida) of the Gallic tribe of the Lingones. This tribe had sided with the Roman during Julius Caesar’s Gallic War (58-50 BCE). Their allegiance to Rome is proven by the fact that Caesar had his legions winter in their territories[1], and by their refusal to participate in the great assembly at Bibracte that appointed Vercingetorix, leader of the resistance against the Romans, as supreme commander of all the Gauls.[2] The Lingones furthermore provided the Romans with cavalry for their army.[3] Because of their close ties to Rome, the Lingones became Romanised fairly quickly. A tribesman who was rich as Croesus had an enormous Gallo-Roman mausoleum erected just outside modern Faverolles.

Ancient Andematunnum lay at an intersection of many roads and can therefore be considered an important town. There was a road going to Durocortorum (Reims) and there were connections with for instance Augustodunum (Autun), Lugdunum (Lyon), Vesontio (Besançon), Argentoratum (Strasburg) and Augusta Treverorum (Trier). Modern Andematunnum is called Langres and is a pleasant town with a population of about 7,000. Its claim to fame is the fact that Denis Diderot (1713-1784), the Enlightenment philosopher and Encyclopaedist, was born here. The Maison des Lumières Denis Diderot is a museum that is dedicated to him, but this post is mostly about another museum in Langres, the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Langres, that offers a lot of information about the town’s Roman past. The walls of Langres are at least 2,000 years old. Of the many gates a Gallo-Roman one from the Augustan era (27 BCE-14 CE) is the most interesting.

Statue of an unknown emperor.

Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Langres

One of the top pieces in the archaeological museum of Langres is a statue of an unknown emperor. When the statue was discovered in 1660 it was headless, so identification proved to be exceptionally difficult. The museum is nevertheless convinced that the man is a Roman emperor. Important clues are the sheer quality of the sculptural work, the size of the statue and the material used, as well as the toga, the patrician sandals and the box containing scrolls at the feet of the man. We are presumably dealing with an emperor from the Julio-Claudian dynasty, that ruled the Roman Empire from 27 BCE until 68 CE. The emperors belonging to this dynasty were Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. The statue has an interesting history. It was found by the mayor of Langres and put on display at the town hall for a couple of years. Then in 1684 it was claimed by Louvois, one of Louis XIV’s ministers. Louis was in need of statues for the Versailles gardens and the ‘togatus’ – as the statue was called – was considered a fine addition.

The statue was transported to the Louvre, where the sculptor François Girardon (1628-1715) provided it with a new head. It was a head from Antiquity and it had also been found in Langres, but obviously it had never been part of the statue of the emperor. The restored statue ended up in the gardens of Versailles as a ‘senator from Langres’. It remained in place there until it was moved to the Tuileries shortly before the French Revolution of 1789. This palace was burned to the ground during the 1871 Paris Commune, but the statue was saved and again moved to the Louvre. It was rediscovered there in 1980 and returned to Langres in 1981.

Tile with the stamp mark of Legio VIII Augusta.

Andematunnum had contacts with the Roman army, a fact that is demonstrated by a tile that bears the stamp mark of the Eighth Legion. This Legio VIII Augusta was stationed at Argentoratum (Strasburg). The stamp mark is only partially legible (‘LEGIO VI…’) but it must refer to Legio VIII Augusta and not to Legio VII Gemina, Legio VI Victrix, Legio VII Claudia or Legio VI Ferrata. Those legions were stationed much further away, in Spain, Britain, the Balkans and Syria respectively.

In 1985 and 1986 excavations were carried outside before construction of the museum started. These led to the discovery of a beautiful mosaic floor from the second century that measures 58 square metres. It was probably part of the reception room of an urban villa. An intriguing element of the mosaic is a panel featuring the young Bacchus. The wine god merely wears a cloak and is accompanied by a panther. In his hand he is holding a thyrsus, a type of staff.

Mosaic floor.

Young Bacchus.

The museum has many Gallo-Roman sculptures from the first to third centuries. The works give us a fairly good idea of what life was like in and around Andematunnum in that period. We get to know what gods were worshipped, what professions people had and how they dressed. The most popular deity appears to have been Epona, a Celtic goddess that was closely linked to horses. The museum has several steles featuring Epona, unfortunately all without text. On each of the steles we see the goddess riding a horse side-saddle and on one of them she is holding the Horn of Plenty (cornucopia) and a dish. She is therefore closely linked to fertility as well. The cult of Epona was popular in the Roman Empire and that popularity extended well beyond the borders of Roman Gaul. Images of the goddess have been found as far as Britain, Northern Africa, Eastern Europe and Rome. The ubiquity of her cult can probably be explained by the fact that horsemen from Gaul were deployed all over the Empire. In Rome the goddess even had her own feast day, 18 December, which was exceptional for a foreign deity.[4]

Stele featuring Epona / tombstone of a smith (?)

As regards professions and daily activities we can study a couple of tombstones and other sculptures. One tombstone features a man with a hammer and his wife. He may very well have been a smith. The museum furthermore has two blocks of limestone featuring carts. The first cart carries at least three people and is clearly drawn by horses. This may very well be a vehicle for travelling. The cart depicted on the other block is used for the harvest. It appears to be laden with bales of hay and is drawn by mules.

Gallic cart.

Cart used for the harvest.

Man with a bardocucullus.

Tombstone of Divixta.

If we want to get an idea of how people dressed, we may study the limestone bust of a man. He is wearing a bardocucullus, a Gallic cloak with a hood. The man looks a lot like a monk and it is certainly not inconceivable that the habit of medieval monks was based on the bardocucullus. A good example of the clothes worn by women can be seen on Divixta’s tombstone, which was commissioned by her husband Scottus. The deceased is wearing a tunic and a cloak, and she is holding a basket of fruit. The relief was originally painted. A funny detail is the fact that the sculptor initially misspelled the husband’s name. The original text read ‘Scotus’, with a single ‘t’. The second ‘t’ was rather clumsily added later.

Langres cathedral

The cathedral of the town dates from the twelfth century. Construction started around 1150, and the building was consecrated in 1196. The cathedral has retained its sober Cistercian-Gothic interior with imposing rib vaults, but its façade has been drastically altered. In the eighteenth century it was found to be on the verge of collapse and so the decision was taken to demolish and subsequently rebuild it in the Neoclassical style. This project took place between 1761 and 1768.

Cathedral of Langres.

The building is dedicated to Saint-Mammès, or Saint Mammas of Caesarea.[5] He was a child martyr who lived and died in the third century. Mammas, a native of present-day Kayseri in Turkey, was according to tradition thrown to the lions, but the animals refused to tear him to shreds. Accompanied by a lion, Mammas subsequently preached to the animals and thus became a sort of early version of Saint Franciscus of Assisi. In the end he did die a martyr’s death and in 1209 his relics arrived in Langres.

In the sixteenth century the bishop of Langres, cardinal Claude de Longwy de Givry (1481-1561), commissioned eight tapestries with episodes from the legend of Saint Mammas. Only three of these have been preserved, of which two can be found in the cathedral (the third is in the Louvre). The tapestries are kept behind curtains to protect them against the light, but during the opening hours of the cathedral the curtains should be open as well. It was Jean Cousin the Elder who made the tapestries in about 1544. A relief made some 25 years later that can be found in the back of the church shows us how Saint Mammas’ relics arrived in Langres. The relief is very interesting because it so accurately depicts the walls of Langres.

Interior of the cathedral.

Tapistry with the legend of Saint Mammas.

Arrival of the relics of Saint Mammas.

Chapel of the Holy Cross.

The chapel of the Holy Cross on the left side of the cathedral also dates from the sixteenth century (1547-1549). It has a beautiful floor and an exquisitely decorated barrel vault. Visitors are unfortunately barred from entering the chapel, but they can admire it from a distance. Inside the chapel is a much older statuette of a Madonna and Child with a kneeling bishop. The statuette is attributed to the sculptor Evrard d’Orléans, who lived in the fourteenth century. The bishop is Guy Baudet, bishop of Langres between 1336 and 1338.

A Dutchman was responsible for the genuine highlight of the cathedral. Sculptor Claus van de Werve (ca. 1380-1439) from Haarlem was a court sculptor for the Burgundian dukes John the Fearless (1404-1419) and Philip the Good (1419-1467). His uncle Claus Sluter had also been a court sculptor for the Burgundians. Uncle Claus had started working on the famous tomb of Philip the Bold, father of John the Fearless, and it had been completed by his nephew. Claus van de Werve then designed John’s tomb, but he died before it could be completed. Both tombs originally stood in the Carthusian monastery of Champmol, but can currently be admired in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, where they may be counted among the highlights.

The Dead Christ – Claus van de Werve.

For the cathedral of Langres Claus van de Werve made a sculpture group comprising eight statues that together represented the Entombment of Christ.[6] Seven out of eight statues have been lost, but the Dead Christ has fortunately been preserved. It is a splendid and unusually realistic work of art, even without the presence of Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, the Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene and two holy women.[7] Christ looks peaceful, but the large wound in his side and his pierced feet are clearly visible. On the back wall we see a fresco from the fourteenth century that depicts the Crucifixion of Saint Andrew, the brother of Saint Peter. It is not immediately clear that we are looking at Saint Andrew. After all, tradition dictates that he was nailed to an X-shaped cross (now known as Saint Andrew’s cross). But since the chapel where we find the fresco used to be dedicated to Saint Andrew, there can be no doubt that we see his crucifixion.

This post was based on information provided by the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Langres and on a brochure provided by the cathedral. Additional sources are mentioned in the footnotes.

[1] De Bello Gallico VI.44.

[2] De Bello Gallico VII.63.

[3] De Bello Gallico VIII.11.

[4] Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization, Paperback edition 2008, p. 325.

[5] It was previously dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist.

[6] It should be noted that the sculpture group is attributed to Claus van de Werve. There is no certainty that he was the artist responsible for its creation.

[7] I.e. the missing figures according to Donna L. Sadler, Stone, Flesh, Spirit, p. 55.


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