Musée Départemental Arles Antique

Museum in Arles

Musee Départemental Arles Antique
CC BY-SA 4.0 / L.Brighton

Nestled in Arles, France, since 1995, the Musée Départemental Arles Antique, affectionately known as “the Blue Museum,” stands on the historic site of the Roman circus. Designed by architect Henri Ciriani, this modern edifice is a testament to innovative museum design while hosting Arles’ rich archaeological collections under the stewardship of the Bouches-du-Rhône departmental council. An extension in 2012 has further enriched its offering.

A Legacy of Preservation

Arles’ commitment to heritage preservation traces back to the 17th century, with local authorities fostering an awareness of the importance of safeguarding antiquities. The tradition of housing the city’s archaeological discoveries for public viewing has evolved from small exhibitions in the “Common House” in 1614 to the grandeur of today’s museum, ensuring major works like the torso of Mithras and the altar of the Good Goddess are preserved and displayed with dignity.

Evolution of a Cultural Repository

The journey from housing collections in the town hall’s entrance hall during the 18th century to the establishment of the “Lapidary Museum” within the Sainte-Anne church in the 19th century underscores the city’s growing need for a more expansive space to accommodate its archaeological wealth. This need was ultimately met by the construction of the new museum in 1995, realized through the vision of curator Jean-Maurice Rouquette and architect Henri Ciriani’s innovative design.

Architectural Vision: A Museum City

Ciriani’s concept of a “Museum City,” realized through a triangular structure enveloping a central patio, divides the museum into three wings dedicated to permanent collections, cultural activities, and scientific research. This division not only facilitates a comprehensive visitor experience but also mirrors the multifaceted nature of Arles’ archaeological heritage.

A Gateway to Ancient Arelate

The museum’s permanent collection, spread across seven sections, navigates the timeline of Arelate from its pre-Roman roots to its zenith in Roman and Christian times. Highlights include the imposing statue of Augustus and a diverse range of mosaics, offering a panoramic view of ancient daily life, rituals, and artistic expression.

The Extension: A New Chapter

To accommodate the Arles-Rhône 3 barge and other significant Rhône discoveries, a spacious wing was added, enhancing the museum’s narrative on ancient maritime commerce. The barge, displayed as if afloat, and accompanying artifacts, underscore Arles’ historical significance as a vibrant river-sea port.

A Collection Spanning Ages

From the iconic Venus of Arles to a presumed bust of Julius Caesar, the museum’s collection spans from prehistory through to late antiquity. Each artifact, whether a paleo-Christian sarcophagus or a Roman sculpture, is a chapter in the storied history of Arles, offering insights into the cultural and daily life of its ancient inhabitants.

The Musée Départemental Arles Antique not only houses the remnants of a bygone era but also embodies the city’s enduring respect for its past. Through its modern architecture and the historical treasures it safeguards, the museum continues to narrate the rich tapestry of Arles’ heritage to the world.

The Musée Départemental Arles Antique appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Arles!

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Visiting Musée Départemental Arles Antique


Daily from 10 :00 to 18 :00 except Tuesday Closed : 1 January, 1 May, 1 November and 25 December


Regular : 8 € Reduced : 5 €

Address: Museum of ancient Arles and Provence Presqu'île du Cirque Romain 13200 Arles France
Duration: 3 hours

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