Roman Site in Reims
In Ancient Roman design, a cryptoporticus, derived from Latin words ‘crypta’ and ‘porticus’, refers to a sheltered corridor or passageway. In English, it’s commonly termed as “cryptoportico.” Characterized as a semi-underground gallery, the vaulting of the cryptoportico sustains aboveground portico structures and is illuminated by light filtering through the apex of its arches.
When constructed on inclining terrains, a cryptoportico’s open side can be partly at ground level, often supporting edifices like a forum or a Roman villa. In such scenarios, it acts as the foundation for the villa, known as ‘basis villae.’ Typically, these corridors are vaulted, with light streaming in through openings in the vault itself. As mentioned in the writings of Pliny the Younger, the term cryptoporticus can be interchangeably used with the word crypt. Due to its shaded and partially dug-in location, a cryptoportico maintained a cool and stable environment, ideal for storing perishable items. Simultaneously, it offered a flat and slightly elevated base for structures built atop.
The Reims Cryptoporticus stands as a remarkably well-maintained representation of third-century AD Roman architecture. During this period, Reims was recognized as the Gallo-Roman town of Durocortorum. This Cryptoporticus, like similar Roman structures, is a semi-underground arched corridor with its roof serving as a walkway. It was likely one of three passageways that encircled the forum of Durocortorum. Its exceptional preservation makes the Cryptoporticus of Reims a prime illustration of such Roman architectural wonders.
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