France's ancient Maison Carrée temple added as a UNESCO site

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France's ancient Maison Carrée temple added as a UNESCO site
The "Maison Carree" ("square house" in French) one of the best preserved Roman temples in Nîmes in 2022. (Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP)

The well-preserved Roman temple in Nîmes is to become the 51st French monument to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Built at the start of the previous millennium, between 1 AD and 10 AD, the Maison Carée is an ancient Roman Temple located in in Nîmes in southern France, and on Monday, it joined the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Maison Carée will be the 51st French monument to be featured as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the ninth in the Occitanie region alone.  


"We will be worthy of this decision. The Maison carrée, so dear to the people of Nîmes and to the citizens of the French Republic, is now a common property of all the United Nations," Nîmes mayor, Jean-Paul Fournier, said during a press conference after the announcement was made. 

READ MORE: IN PICTURES: Discover France’s 14 favourite monuments

Fournier had travelled to defend the temple in the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee, which is being held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia until September 25th.


Five things you should know about the Maison Carée

1. It is one of the world's best preserved ancient temples

According to the Museum de la Romanité, the Maison Carrée is one of the best preserved Roman temples in the world, alongside the Pantheon in Rome.

Some restoration work (between 2006 and 2010) has been carried out, namely to counter damage that had been done due to pollution. 

The museum attributes Maison Carrée's 'excellent state of preservation' to its "continuous use since the 11th century."

2. It was dedicated to the heirs of Augustus 

The monument was dedicated to the two grandsons of Augustus, Lucius Caesar and Caius Julius Caesar, both of whom died young. Unfortunately, the bronze inscription, which would have been on the northern façade of the temple, signifying this dedication was removed for an unknown reason during medieval times.

In 1758, the Nîmes scholar Jean-François Séguier managed to decipher what the inscription would have said, figuring out that it once read: "To Caius Caesar consul and Lucius Caesar consul-designate, son of Augustus, princes of youth."

3. It has served several different purposes over the years

The Maison Carrée has been used as a private residence, namely during the Middle Ages, and then later it became the property of the Augustinian monks. 

It has also been used as a stable, government office and even the headquarters of the archives of Nîmes before it became marked as a museum and historic site.

4. It was on the first list of 'monuments historiques' in France

In 1840, France published its first list of 'historic monuments', which was the first time the country took such steps to protect its historic cultural and historical sites. The original list included 1,082 monuments, and the Maison Carrée was listed among them. 

5. Maison Carrée is not exactly square

Despite the fact that the temple's name translates to 'Square Building', it is technically not an exact square. It is 26 metres long, 15 metres wide and 17 metres high, making it more of a rectangle in reality. 


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