ORANGE. – Le Théâtre Romain.
Le Théâtre remonte au règne de l’Empereur Adrien, la Façade haute de 36 m. 82 sur une longueuer de 103 m. 15 et 4 mètres d’èpaisseur.
(The Roman Theatre
The Theater dates back to the reign of Emperor Adrian, the facade is 36 m high. 82 over a length of 103 m. 15 and 4 meters thick.)
Publisher: Levy & Neurdein Reunis, Paris (1920-1932)
The Roman Theatre of Orange (French: Théâtre antique d’Orange) is a Roman theatre in Orange, Vaucluse, France. It was built early in the 1st century AD. . . . It is one of the best preserved of all Roman theatres, and served the Roman colony of Arausio (or, more specifically, Colonia Julia Firma Secundanorum Arausio: “the Julian colony of Arausio established by the soldiers of the second legion”) which was founded in 40 BC. Playing a major role in the life of the citizens, who spent a large part of their free time there, the theatre was seen by the Roman authorities not only as a means of spreading Roman culture to the colonies, but also as a way of distracting them from all political activities.
Mime, pantomime, poetry readings and the “attelana” (a kind of farce rather like the commedia dell’arte) were the dominant forms of entertainment, much of which lasted all day. For the common people, who were fond of spectacular effects, magnificent stage sets became very important, as was the use of stage machinery. The entertainment offered was open to all and free of charge.
As the Western Roman Empire declined during the 4th century, by which time Christianity had become the official religion, the theatre was closed by official edict in AD 391, since the Church opposed what it regarded at the time as uncivilized spectacles. It was probably pillaged by the Visigoths in 412, and like most Roman buildings was certainly stripped of its better stone over the centuries for reuse. It was used as a defensive post in the early Middle Ages, and by the 12th century began to be used by the Church for religious plays. During the 16th-century religious wars, it became a refuge for the townspeople. It has since been restored to its former function, primarily for opera, along side its use as a tourist spot.
The exterior façade is divided into three levels. The first comprises three doors which open out onto the stage and secondary doors which open onto the corridors or rooms that do not have access to the interior. On the second level, the wall is bare of any decoration. You can see the stone corbels which supported the roof structure and a deep groove, the remains of the anchoring for the tiles on the roof. A blind arcade on the wall embellishes the third level. With the exception of the central arch and the arches located in line with the basilicae (towers positioned each side of the stage), each has a cavity that lets light in to the passage located inside the wall. At the top, there are two rows of 43 corbels which supported the velum, a large canvas canopy that protected spectators from the sun and the rain.
Roman Theatre & Museum of Orange
The stage is flanked by two towers called basilicae. These towers housed the rooms that served as foyers. During the performances, actors, chariots and scenery were gathered here ready for their entry on stage. The upper level or levels are thought to have been used as stores for the scenery and props. 61 metres wide and 13 metres deep, the stage consists of a floor resting on beams. It had trapdoors set in it enabling actors or machinery to appear as if by magic. An ingenious system of cables, winches and counterweights allowed the actors and working scenery to be hidden from the audience using a curtain that was around 3 metres high.
Roman Theatre & Museum of Orange