Lonely Planet Writer

France's glorious new Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes is swathed in a glass 'toga'

If you pay a visit to the French city of Nîmes, you won’t be able to miss its latest addition – a museum draped in what looks like a Roman toga. The city is hoping that its impressive new Musée de la Romanité (Museum of Romanity) will bring it closer to the UNESCO heritage status it seeks.

The new Musée de la Romanité is swathed in a glass ‘toga.’ Image: Stéphane Ramillon

Located opposite the 2000-year-old Roman amphitheatre, Les Arènes, the 9200sq m Musée de la Romanité opens on June 2 2018. Designed by Brazilian architect, Elizabeth de Portzamparc, it showcases national heritage works of great archaeological and artistic value.

The new Musée de la Romanité is located opposite the Arena de Nîmes amphitheatre. Image: Serge Urvoy

The €59.5 million museum complex is comprised of three rectangular buildings, with its pleated facade evoking a Roman toga. This translucent glass skin is made up of nearly 7000 silk-screened glass strips, covering an area of 2500sq m. The reflections and ripples of the glass mosaic change according to the different times of the day.

The new Musée de la Romanité will showcase 5000 works. Image: Stephane Ramillon

Around 5000 works out of the 25,000 that the museum owns will be on display at the museum, some of which were previously
kept in the Nîmes Archaeological Museum. It will also be hosting temporary exhibitions, like “Gladiators: Heroes of the Colosseum,” which will be running at the museum this summer.

Am aerial view of Nîmes and the Musée de la Romanité. Image: Musée de la Romanité.

Famous for its rich ancient past, Nîmes is offering visitors a chance to examine the remarkable state of conservation of its Roman monuments in a redesigned city centre, complete with urban gardens. The museum will present a domus (Roman house) and two mosaics, known as Achilles and Pentheus, which were discovered during excavation work in 2006-2007 in an excellent state of conservation.

The interior of the Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes. Image: Serge Urvoy

The museum’s green roof terrace offers visitors a 360-degree view over the city, and its archaeological garden is structured in three strata corresponding to the major periods – Gallic, Roman and medieval. The setting for the Musée is very modern and uses interactive displays, immersive projections, touchscreens, holograms and sound showers.

There will be 5000 items on display at the Musée de la Romanité. Image: Musée de la Romanité.

“Guided by a strong demand for highlighting and passing on our magnificent national heritage to future generations, we have made every effort to ensure that this museum is an exceptional showcase for our impressive archaeological collections, restored for the occasion,” says Jean-Paul Fournier, mayor of Nîmes. “The Museum of Romanity fits perfectly into the philosophy of Nîmes’ candidature for Unesco World Heritage site on the theme of “Antiquity in the Present Day.”

The new Musée de la Romanité is swathed in a glass ‘toga.’ Image: Stephane Ramillon

Further information on the Musée de la Romanité can be found here.