Cassinomagus - Roman Baths in France
Cassinomagus was an ancient Gallo-Roman town and today you can see the remains of parts of the town itself and one of the best preserved baths in Roman Gaul. Amazingly, it was only recently that these 2000 year old archeological remains were discovered near the sleepy little village of Chassenon on the borders of the Poitou-Charente and the Limousin in South West France, about halfway between Limoges and Angouleme.
This site is so important because the baths at Chassenon (les thermes de Chassenon) are relatively complete - indeed they are amongst the best in the Western Roman Empire making Cassinomagus a major Roman archaeological site in France but also of European importance.
These baths look impressive, teach us about building techniques and the technology know to the Romans, but they are also fascinating because they also tell us so much about life in Roman France.
Have you visited this Roman site?
The Roman remains at Chassenon have always been of five star importance, but with the addition of the visitor centre, the fantastic and imaginative events and new car parking I'd rate this site as a definite five star attraction. What do you think? If you've visited Cassinomagus, vote below to add your rating.
Cast your vote for Cassinomagus
Find out more about the Romans in France
Where is Cassinomagus? In Poitou-Charente, France
Cassinomagus, the Roman baths or therme de Chassenon, is near the sleepy little town of Chassenon on the borders of the Charente (department 16) and the Haute-Vienne (department 87) about ten minutes from Les Trois Chenes in Videix. It’s roughly half way between the cities of Limoges and Angouleme.
The archeological site is owned by the Charente Council.
Cassinomagus Near Chassenon, Poitou-Charente, France
How to Find Cassinomagus (or therme de Chassenon)
Cassinomagus is easy to find. Locate Chassenon – about 45km from Limoges, 65 km from Angouleme, 125 km from Poitiers and 100 km from Perigueux. The nearest small towns are Saint Junien (take the D160), Rochechouart (take the D45) and Chabanais (take the D29). The site is very well signed and you won’t miss it. If you need to ask someone it is the Therme de Chassenon or Cassinomagus Parc archéologique
GPS coordinates are:
DD lat. 45 851 39 91 / lon. 0.765.49.13
DMS N45° 51’5.0364” / E0° 45’ 55.767”
To find Les Trois Chenes from Cassinomagus go to Chessenon and take the road for Pressignac and then Videix. Follow the road from the Videix sign and we are at the other end of the village (only 10 houses and a few hundrend yards long) on the right hand side opposite the OLD Mairie (not the temporary Mairie set up in the centre of the village). You’ll recognize us by the Gites de France signs for our chambres d’hotes and gite.
View of the Roman baths from the visitor centre
What can you see of the history and archaeology of Cassinomagus?
Within the 25 hectare site you can see the archeological discoveries of the imperial baths, a shrine ("Montélu" temple) with forty-nine mysterious pits, two small temples, the site of an amphitheatre and the remains of an aqueduct. This is part of the ancient town of Cassinomagus which in turn was part of the Celtic Limovices territory.
Recently gardens have been created to show a range of plants that would have been used during Roman times.
Of course it's interesting to view this site as part of the extensive Roman Empire - France was only part of a much larger picture.
Map of the Roman Empire
Cassinomagus and the Rochechouart Meteorite
About 214 million years ago when a meteorite, 1.5 km in diameter, collided with the earth on what is now the town of Rochechouart and its environs. The meteorite caused a disruption to the soil and created a metamorphic rock known as impact breccia. You can see this rock in the houses all around the area of Rochechouart (including our house), and it’s not surprising that the Roman baths and associated buildings at Cassinomagus were constructed from this stone as well.
You can learn more about the meteorite in the Museum of the Meteorite in Rochechouart – see other things to do in the area below and in this article: Rochechouart and the land of the meteorite
The Roman Baths at Cassinomagus
Roman baths were grand affairs! The baths were not only a place to wash, but a place to meet and relax as well. They were used by the whole population regardless of social background and so they tell us a great deal about Roman life and the Romans in France.
In the permanent exhibition there are artists' impressions of what the baths would have looked like and there is also an excellent video that shows how the baths would have looked and have been used and this really brings the past to life before our very eyes.
This painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema gives a rather fanciful idea of Roman civilization and Roman baths
The Gardens of Pliny the Elder
Recently gardens have been constructed to show the plants used by the Romans in daily life. They are called after Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) the Roman naturalist and author of Natural History who left us so much information about the botanical knowledge of Romans. They include plants that the Romans would have used on a daily basis for food, medicine, ornament, perfume and dyes.
Achillea was used to heal scars, Elecampane (Inula helenium orL’Aunée in French) against melancholia, the sacred Myrte and Platain to make poultices. Of course all British people will know that we owe almost all our herbs and vegetables to the Romans.
This collection is relatively new and will be augmented over time with the aim of creating a collection of plants used in Gallo-Roman Antiquity.
Gardens of Pliny the Elder at Cassinomagus
Archeological Work Continues at Cassinomagus
Discover the archaeological history of the site at first hand.
Archeologists are working today to discover more about the site, about the larger built area, about the chronology, spacial organization and construction techniques.
The first archaeological digs took place mid-19th century. In the 20th century J H Moreau and the members of the Societe des Amis de Chassenon “Society of the Friends of Chassenon” have done much for the site.
Guided Tours of the Cassinomagus Site
There are three different guided tours to choose from:
Tour of the Baths
This is a general tour of the Roman baths, their function and their place in Gallo-Roman society.
Tour on the theme of water
You are taken on a guided tour by Gaîa Paulina, in the costume of a Roman matron of the 2nd century AD and she will explain the circulation and use of the water.
Every Monday 9th July – 20th August
There is now a tour in English every Sunday
10.30am – 2.00pm 1st July – 31st August
Audio guides are available in a number of languages
Facilities at Cassinomagus
Ample free car parking is available just outside the entrance.
From 2012 there is a superb new visitor centre that houses a spacious welcome area with ticket box and a wide range of books, leaflets and information about Cassinomagus and also gifts and souvenires. The visitor centre also houses a café and an exhibition space.
Picnic facilities are available, dogs can be taken onto the site on leads.
There are both permanent and temporary exhibitions at Cassinomagus. The permanent exhibition includes a variety of objects found on the site, visual aids which show what life would have been like in the baths and the surrounding town, and excellent videos which will liven up the presentation for children.
The temporary exhibitions are varied. In 2012 there was an interesting exhibition of art work by Alain Campello based on the collections and the site at Cassinomagus, and an exhibition about life in the Roman Empire.
Gallo-Roman days by the Gaulois d’Esse
Events at Cassinomagus
Make sure that you don’t miss the spectacular events that take place here. As soon as you know when you plan to visit the area, find out what’s on at Cassinomagus. The Gallo-Roman days by the Gaulois d’Esse are truly a treat for adults and children alike. Shows and displays of Roman fighting skills entertain while demonstrations of skills and crafts are both instructive and fascinating.
Unfortunately the events for 2013 have not yet been posted so just to give you a taste of the range of activities available, in 2012 there was story-telling, tours of the gardens, Greco-Roman displays of fighting, Archaeological nights and balls, meetings with the archaeologists and visits to the areas of excavation, free lectures on aspects of Roman life, art and craft days for children, star-gazing and night spectacles of music and theatre.
Join ‘Le Club de Lutte Cassinomagus’ (CLC)
Children and adults can join the battle club and learn the fighting techniques of the ancients. Meetings are Saturday mornings from 10am during term times. Contact Yoann Tuyeras (President): 06 26 99 87 54
Cassinomagus is a great resource for schools. Children can enjoy a living history. As well as taking the tours outlined above, there are workshops and stories on request.
Here's a slice of the Gallo-Roman action at Cassinomagus
Cassinomagus opening times and tariffs
The site is open every day:
Low Season – 16th February – 30th April and 15th September – 24th November (2012) open from 2pm - 5.30pm
Guided tours at 2.30pm and 4pm
Mid-Season – 1st May – 30th June and 1st September – 14th September – open from 10am – 6.30 pm
Guided tours at 11.30am, 2pm, 3.30pm and 5pm
High Season – 1st July – 31st August – open from 10am – 7pm
Guided tours at 10.30am, 11.45am, 2pm, 3.30pm and 5pm
Closed 25th November – opening date in February 2013
The pricing scheme is somewhat complicate and it is best to look at the Cassinomagus site, decide when you are going to visit and what you want to do and see. They range between 5 euros and 12 euros for adults and between 2.50 euros and 7.50 euros for children.
Before planning your trip it is always wise to contact venues directly to check that there are no last minute changes or unusual closures etc You can contact Cassinomagus where the staff speak English and probably other languages.
Telephone + 33 (0)5 45 89 32 21
Cassinomagus.fr is a great site - but only partly translated into English
Where to Stay Near Chassenon – The best accommodation near Cassinomagus
Where to stay near Cassinomagus? At Les Trois Chenes of course! We have a two star B&B and a three star gite ten or fifteen minutes from Cassinomagus. This is what we can offer you:
The Bed and Breakfast: 4 bedrooms all with ensuite bath / showers and private WC.There are two double rooms, one family room with a double bed and single bed (we can add a folding bed for a child); one room with three sigle beds (and again we can add a folding bed for a child). Altogether we can accommodate 11 guests in the guest house. For more information visit our site Les Trois Chenes B&B Price: 45 euros one person, 60 euros 2 people and fifteen euros for three people sharing a room. Breakfast included.
In our gite (or self-catering holiday cottage / vacation rental) there are three bedrooms all with ensuite shower rooms and WC’s. There’s a spacious, open-plan kitchen, dining room and sitting room and large, private garden. For more information visit our site Les Trois Chenes
Between us we speak French, English, Turkish and a bit of German
More Accommodation Near Cassinomagus The best Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels and self-catering cottages near Chassenon:
More accommodation near Cassinomagus and Chassenon
- Domaine Des Etangs | Opening Summer 2014
Fabulous B&B accommodation in a chateau near Massignac about 30 minutes from Chassenon
- Hotel de charme Rochechouart - LA METEORITE : restaurant traditionnel, Limoges, Chabanais, Saint Jun
Hotel de charme, restaurant traditionnel, Rochechouart, Limoges: reservation chambre, hotel, restaurant, Chabanais, Saint Junien - about 15 minutes from Chassenon
- l'Hotel de France, hotel restaurant à Rochechouart en Haute-Vienne, Limousin
l'Hotel de France, hôtel restaurant 2 étoiles est situé à Rochechouart en Haute Vienne - about 15 minutes from Chassenon
- La Roseraie France
Chambres d'hotes about 15 minutes from Chassenon
What Else is There to See and Do Near Cassinomagus?
So much – where to start?
Places to Visit
The Meteorite Museum in Rochechouart has already been mentioned. This is a small and visitor-friendly museum right in the centre of the historic town of Rochechouart. It explains the time of the impact and the consequences with graphics and a video. There are videos on sale there too.
The Castle at Rochechouart now a Centre for Contemporary Art is a must-see. Imposingly built on a high rocky outcrop Rochechouart Chateau overlooks the valley of the River Glane.
The Chateau of Rochebrune at Etagnac is about ten minutes from Chassenon and there are guided visits of the interior during the high tourist season
The Chateau de Peyras is a privately owned castle and guided tours by the owner are a real treat
The Lakes of the Haute-Charente are lovely and a great way to entertain the kids. Let’s face it – touring ancient sites is not the favourite occupation of most children, so after your visit to Cassinomagus, take them for a dip in the lake of Lavaud, about five minutes from Chassenon and from Les Trois Chenes. They can swim and play on the two little beaches, hire canoes and kayaks from the nautical centre and go horseriding or even take a balloon ride while you enjoy a peaceful aperitif overlooking the lake. You can then all eat at one of the four little bars, restaurants and snack bars around the lake.
The Adventure Park at Massignac will tire the children out if the activities around the lake have failed to do so.
Visit the glove factory at Saint Junien. The town of Saint Junien is famous for its manufacture of gloves and the tour around the factory given by the Tourist Office is excellent. In French and English – perhaps in other languages too. Madonna’s glove as seen in the Super Bowl performace were made in St Junien.
Things to see
The autumn festival in Chabanais – every year, the first weekend in October
The festival of music and dance at Confolens – every year
The medieval festival in Rochechouart – every year (except 2012)
The food and wine festival in Saint Junien – every year in November
The Ostensions – lavish religious celebrations – every 7 years
Rochechouart Vide Grenier or Empty your Attics – every year in the summer (as well as many smaller vide greniers held by all the towns and villages around)
Videix communal meal and fireworks – held at the lake of Lavaud every year in August
There are many more things to see and do even in this tiny area of France and to find out more about what is on when you visit contact the toursist offices:
Further information: tourist offices near Cassinomagus and other useful sites
- Les cités de caractère - Tourisme, vacances, séjours en Haute-Vienne, Limousin - randonnées, porcela
- Tourisme.fr : CONFOLENTAIS OFFICE DE TOURISME ** : CONFOLENS
Poitou-Charentes : Charente : Annuaire des offices de tourisme et syndicats d'initiative
- Tourisme.fr : HAUTE CHARENTE OFFICE DE TOURISME ** : MASSIGNAC
Poitou-Charentes : Charente : Annuaire des offices de tourisme et syndicats d'initiative
- Lacs de Haute Charente - Office de Tourisme
Office de tourisme des Lacs de Haute Charente
- Office de Tourisme du Pays de la météorite - Rochechouart
- La Charente
The future for this Gallo-Romain site
The future of this archaeological site at Chassenon is looking great! In 2014 the whole site will receive a new make-over. The old, obtrusive timber and tile coverings will be gone and instead a huge, light, transparent structure will hover over these unique Roman remains shelteringthem without touching. This is so exciting and will enable us to see the Roman bath structure in daylight and within the natural setting of the wonderful Limousin landscape.
More information and an artist's impression of the new works can be seen here in Charente Libre
Have I inspired you to visit this archaeological site in France?
Do feel free to leave a comment
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on December 14, 2014:
Lucky you Aesta1! I'm so envious of you. Is it warm and sunny there? I've never heard of Merida so that's another one on my list of great places for visit. Many thanks for leaveing a message.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 13, 2014:
I just visited another Roman city today, Merida in Spain. I just love to see the things that they have excavated giving us a better understanding of life then like the Baths and the Theater and the Forum. Just can't have enough of it. Hope to visit this place one day.
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on August 31, 2014:
Many thanks for calling by, Adventuretravels. Limousin is especially interesting as it's so little known and so unspoilt.
Giovanna from UK on August 31, 2014:
I love France, it's jammed with very interesting and beautiful places. Very interesting Hub, great info for visiters. Thanks for sharing.
Nell Rose from England on April 15, 2013:
If I could get on a plane and come over to see it I would right now! lol! I love archaeology, and this is just the type of thing I love, what a great find! voted up and shared, nell
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on December 14, 2012:
Thanks so much for your visit, kashmir56. Like so much in this area of France, it is a little-known gem.
Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on December 14, 2012:
This was such a very interesting hub and i did not know about this great information it was so fascinating .
Vote up and more !!! SHARING !
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on November 26, 2012:
Many thanks, ptosis, for the vote and thumbs up. Pleased you enjoyed reading about Cassinomagus!
ptosis from Arizona on November 25, 2012:
Very Interesting. Voted 3 thumbs up.
Les Trois Chenes (author) from Videix, Limousin, South West France on November 18, 2012:
Thank you so much, aviannovice, for leaving this message and I'm looking forward to seeing you if you manage to get this far.
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on November 17, 2012:
This sounds like a wonderful and remarkable piece of history. I have never been to France, but when I do get there, I will definitely drink in the nostalgia of Cassinomagus, the chateaus and the lakes. Thanks for this lovely lesson in French locales.