Town Hall and Cryptoportics of Arles

Town Hall in Arles

CC BY-SA 4.0 / Bjs

The Arles Town Hall and the Cryptoportics represent two historically rich and interconnected sites within the city, each displaying the depth of Arles’s heritage.

Constructed in 1676 and designated as a historical monument, the Arles Town Hall is an architectural marvel spanning three levels, showcasing exceptional craftsmanship and design. The entrance reveals a vestibule marked by an intricate low vault, a prime example of French stereotomy—featuring dual intersecting barrel vaults elegantly anchored to the walls by arches. Despite spanning 15 meters, the vault’s minimal deflection is a testament to the artisanal prowess of its creators, embodying stereotomy’s essence through its construction techniques and the visual appeal of its inner curvature.

Ascending the principal staircase brings visitors face-to-face with two lion sculptures by Jean Dedieu, accentuating the area’s magnificence. This path also introduces a replica of the Venus of Arles, a nod to the ancient Greco-Roman sculpture found in Arles’s old theater, now residing in the Louvre, while a rendition by Girardon enhances the staircase. The building’s first floor is distinguished by a balcony supported by double columns, and the second floor features a central pediment showcasing the sun, emblematic of Louis XIV, flanked by ornamental balusters and pots-à-feu, adding to the Town Hall’s historical and aesthetic significance.

Adjacent lies the Cryptoportics of Arles, a subterranean labyrinth dating back to Roman times, buried underneath the city’s contemporary core. Originating from the establishment of Arles’s first Roman colony in 46 BC, and possibly incorporating older Greek structures, the Cryptoportics provide a direct link to over two millennia of history. Initially serving as commercial or storage areas in the Roman forum, these vaulted chambers today invite visitors to delve into the ancient city’s commercial and daily life.

Together, the Town Hall and Cryptoportics of Arles present a fascinating journey through the city’s past, from the Town Hall’s architectural splendor and artistic flourishes reflecting the city’s historical governance to the Cryptoportics’ echo of ancient Arles’s day-to-day and commercial essence.

The Town Hall and Cryptoportics of Arles appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Arles!

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Visiting Town Hall and Cryptoportics of Arles

Duration: 20 minutes

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