Ancient Theater of Orange
No need to go to Italy to enjoy the ruins of the Roman Forum. In fact, there are numerous monuments built by the Roman Empire in Provence and around Avignon. You will fall under the spell of the charm of the ancient theater of Orange, an incredible building that is unique in the world.
Short history of the ancient theater of Orange
The region of Orange was conquered by the Romans in 40 B.C., When they vanquished the tricastini tribe of Gaul. Orange is also called Arausio. But its rise dates to the reign of Augustus, who was the head of the Roman Empire for many years: from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D.
It is under his reign, at the beginning of the first century of our era, that the construction of the ancient theater of Orange began. It is the first of its kind and it testifies still today to the opulence of Arausio, located on the strategic commercial axis that is the Rhone Valley.
After centuries of presentations, the ancient theater closed in 391, some years after the fall of the Roman Empire in 376. By chance, it escaped the fate of the kind reserved for many monuments of the era, whose stones were used for the building of walls, homes or churches. In fact, in the Middle Ages, the ancient theater of Orange found many other uses. For example, the princes of Orange used its thick walls to create a military outpost and protect their castle built on the Saint-Eutrope hill, which dominates the town. During the religious wars of the Renaissance, the castle welcomed the disaster stricken populations. It housed them with fragile homes, constructed on the stands or the stage.
It was not until the XIXth century that its original vocation was relaunched and a renewal, when the popularity of the ruins was in full swing in the Romantic Movement.
The ancient theater in figures
An especially impressive building awaits visitors who go to Orange. You will initially be shocked by the extraordinary dimensions of its facade: 103 meters. To give an idea of its size, it is longer than a football field! With a height of 37 meters, the wall is 1.80 meters thick. Louis XIV said that it was the “most beautiful wall in his kingdom”.
The wall of the theater has an architecture that is both majestic and austere, with rows of cantilevers. Three doors separated by arcades contribute to the aesthetic balance.
The roman theatre of orange is also a giant concert hall where people crowded to attend plays that were great successes, especially the tragedies. The interior of the ancient theater of Orange, which is also called the cavea, can hold 9,000 spectators. The people were divided according to their social rank. The patricians were located in the first levels of the stands. The citizens and the merchants were at the intermediary levels. The slaves watched the plays form the highest level.
The theater of Orange today
This monument is classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. You can visit the theater and the Museum of Art and History.
The opening hours change based on the season.
Ancient theater: opening hours
You can visit the monument in January, February, November, December from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- In March and October, you can visit the building between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
- The months of April, May and September you can enjoy the Theater of Arles from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
- In June and July, the hours are extended to 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Note that there may be exceptional closings due to certain events. It is best to call before visiting.
The bookshop-boutique has the same opening hours as the Theater.
The museum of art and history of Orange hours
The Ancient Theater and the Museum of Art and History are open every day, all year.
The facility awaits you on the other side of the street. You can visit:
- In January, February, November and December: from 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 4:30
- In March and October: from 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m.to 5:30 p.m.
- n April, May and September: from 9:15 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
- In June, July and August: from 9:15 to 7:00 p.m.
The choregos of Orange
The Ancient Theater is visited like a Roman ruin... But it is also - and above all - a very lively cultural locale, that holds concerts and plays. Among the events you should not miss are the Choregos of Orange, and international festival of lyric art that takes place for several months each year.
Launched in 1869, this festival is one of the oldest and most popular in the world. It is an exceptional framework and the acoustics of the space are appreciated by all: the lyric singers as well as by the spectators. Verdi, Bizet, Puccini... The greatest composer are regularly played at the Choregos of Orange.
From May 25 to August 4, 2017, you can attend these concerts, operas and other presentations related to lyric art, which take place in the stands of the Ancient Theater of Orange.