Nécropole des Alyscamps

Historic Site in Arles

Nécropole Des Alyscamps
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Hawobo

The Alyscamps stands as a significant Roman necropolis, located just outside Arles, France’s ancient town walls. Celebrated as one of the renowned burial grounds in antiquity, its name, “Aliscamps,” derives from the Provençal Occitan term, rooted in the Latin “Elisii Campi” — translating to the Champs-Élysées in French, or Elysian Fields in English. This site gained acclaim in medieval literature, highlighted by its mentions in Ariosto’s “Orlando Furioso” and Dante’s “Inferno.”

In line with Roman customs prohibiting burials within city confines, the vicinity outside city gates often housed tombs and mausoleums, akin to Rome’s Appian Way. Serving as Arles’ principal burial site for around 1,500 years, the Alyscamps formed the terminus of the Aurelian Way. It catered to the affluent, offering a resting place from modest sarcophagi to ornate memorials. Recognized for its historical significance, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 as part of the “Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments” collection.

Historical Evolution

Post-Christianization in the 4th century, the Alyscamps persisted as a burial ground. Notably, Saint Genesius and possibly Arles’ inaugural bishop, Saint Trophimus, were interred here, the latter rumored to have had Christ attend his burial, leaving a knee imprint on a sarcophagus. This belief elevated the necropolis’s status, attracting numerous burials to the extent of necessitating sarcophagi to be stacked in three layers by the 4th century. Its allure was such that remains were transported from across Europe, benefiting the Rhône boatmen financially.

This site was also an important stop on the Way of Saint James medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, because of a priory installed here around the year 1040.

Though its prominence waned after the relics of Saint Trophimus were relocated to the cathedral in 1152, the Alyscamps saw use into the medieval period. The Renaissance era witnessed widespread plundering of the site, with sarcophagi gifted by city officials to notable visitors and locals repurposing tomb materials for construction. The 19th century’s introduction of the railway and a canal inflicted further damage, bisecting the necropolis. However, in October 1888, it captivated Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, marking their initial joint painting venture. Since then, efforts to rehabilitate the Alyscamps have transformed it into an open-air museum, celebrated for its allure and atmosphere as advocated by Lawrence Durrell in “Caesar’s Vast Ghost.”

The Nécropole des Alyscamps appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Arles!

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Visiting Nécropole des Alyscamps


01/03 to 30/04: daily between 9 am and 6 pm.

01/05 to 30/09: daily between 9 am and 7 pm.

01/10 to 31/10: daily between 9 am and 6 pm.

02/11 to 01/03: daily between 10.30 am and 4.30 pm.

Closed January 1st, May 1st & December 25th.



Address: Alyscamps, Avenue des Alyscamps, Arles, France
Duration: 40 minutes

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