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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Roman Mosaic Art in Bavay, Northern France

Bavay, the Antic Bagatum, was the capital of the Nervii, a tribe of Belgian Gauls which almost defeated Caesar at the battle of the Sabis.

During the 3rd centuries fortifications were built arond te Forum and Basilica of Bavay to protect against invasions from the Northern tribes.
The South Wall of Fortifications.

Bagatum was located at the intersections of 7 Roman roads joining many parts of Western and Northern Gaul to Southern Germany.

Bavay, Capital of the Nervii tribe, was the nexus of the Roman Roads of Northern Gaul from the 1st to the 4th century
Roman Roads of Northern Gaul, 1st century AD.

It was an important political, strategic and economical town and Rome built there an impressive Forum, the biggest ever been excavated in France.

The archaeologists revealed exquisite mosaic art decorating public and private buildings laid in precious and very accurate geometric patterns.

Mosaic Art material was excavated from local areas. Stones and Ceramic tesserae used in Roman Bavay.
fragment of mosaic and individual tesserae.

2 major mosaic floors were excavated in 1955 and 1959.

The Grande Rue mosaic came from the forum itself.

Mosaic Art was ornating the floors of public and private buildings in all part of the Roman Empire.
The Grande Rue Mosaic in Bavay

Its superb arrangement of 10 mm (3/8") black and white tesserae was laid in patterns of meanders and svastiska on one side and lobelled circles on the other side.

The Louvignies mosaic covering the floor of a private villa was expertly laid on top of an Hypocaust - the Roman version of Central Heating much needed during the winters of Northern Gaul.

Amazing 5 colors mosaic floor from a provate building in Bavay, 2nd century AD
Fragment of the Louvignies Mosaic in Bavay, France

At 5 mm (3/16") the Louvignies tesserae are much smaller than the Grande Rue ones.Their five colors are Black, White, Orange, Yellow and Grey. 

Details of the Tesserae of the Louvignies Mosaic in Bavay, Northern France.

Most of what is left of this bright mosaic are geometric patterns of Rectangles, Losanges, Octagons and Meanders.

Square geometric patterns of the Louvignies mosaic.
Square angles in the Louvignies Mosaic Art.

Lozange geometric patterns in the Louvignies Mosaic in Bavay, Northern France.
Lozanges in the Louvignies mosaic art.

But I believe several portraits were originally part of it.

Possible portrait in the otherwise mostly geometric Louvignies Mosaic
Detail of the Louvignies Mosaic, possible portrai.

The mosaic was originally 7 x 7 m (500 square feet). Although only about 20  % of it are left and it was built with 5 colors only, the Louvignies Mosaic is absolutely GORGEOUS !

So the next time you consider designing a mosaic, and believe you need many different nuances, try to remember our Greek and Roman ancestors were able to work wonders with 2 or 5 colors....

Frederic Lecut is a French mosaicist.
In 1992 he made Alabama his home.
His Art is about inspiring People.

You can contact him either 
by phone at (334) 798 1639 or email at 
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