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Restoration work at the Empúries Roman Forum reveals more information about the ancient city centre

The revamped 10,000 square metre site allows visitors to understand what it was really like in Ancient Times. Empúries is one of the largest archaeological sites in Catalonia, with well-preserved ruins from Greek and Roman towns.

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05 June 2010 05:01 AM

by

Mario Rubio
L'Escala (CNA) .- Restoration work at the Empuries Roman Forum in L’Escala on the Costa Brava coastline has revealed fascinating details about the ancient ‘hub’ of the city, from the first century B.C. to the third century A.D. Excavation work has uncovered the original dimensions of each building on a site of 10,000 square metres. The tabernaes around the square have been recovered, the base of the temple has been reconstructed and the spaces occupied originally by the ‘Basilica’ and the ‘Curia’ have been delimited. The Catalan Minister of Culture, Joan Manel Tresserras, and the Spanish Government’s delegate in Catalonia, Joan Rangel, inaugurated the site.
Until now, this large space that had occupied the city centre during Roman times had been subjected to small scale interventions that did not really allow visitors to get an idea of the forum. Now, after years of excavation and a careful study of the project, the team of archaeologists has completed the museum by transforming the area and rescuing, as much as possible, those items that still remain.

To begin with, the grass that covered the large squares has been removed. “We believe that a green square did not reflect the fact that this space was, in Roman times, covered with stone slabs”, said Pere Castanyer, one of the archaeologists. The Roman city of Empúries housed up to 4,000 inhabitants in its moments of splendour during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Now, visitors who climb up to the forum can see a reconstruction of the original porch on the southern edge of the square. In the northern part, a temple base has been built around which smaller temples were constructed. According to Castanyer, on the east side of the square we can find the administrative buildings such as the ‘Basilica’ (where justice was administered) while the ‘Curia’ (equivalent to the current city hall) was in the south-eastern corner. The Forum is completed by the porch ruins that surround the square. Walls from the tabernaes that were around the square and concentrated economic activity in the city have also been recovered.

“We wanted to preserve the original dimensions of each building after the excavations so visitors could realize what the city was really like”, explained Castanyer, adding that before the excavation work visitors went from one building to another without realizing it because everything was on the same level.

Empúries, a huge tourist attraction

The Catalan Minister of Culture and Media, Joan Manuel Tresserras, highlighted the functions of the new space. “The previous interpretation that was made of the site, along with its reinterpretation, help us to know what the space was really like”, said Tresseras. He pointed out that now the site is “much more understandable” and, therefore can attract more visitors. The forum of Empúries is the only one to be completely excavated and preserved in Catalonia. Tresserras stressed that the cultural assets of the Costa Brava mean the area can offer “the highest density tourist area in the world with the best cultural offer”.

At the same time, the Spanish Government’s delegate in Catalonia, Joan Rangel, said that culture is an “element of economic dynamism”, while pointing out that improving the Empúries site can bring even more visitors to a site which already plays host to 225,000 tourists every year. The restoration project has cost 867,000 Euros. The Spanish Government has paid for 75% of the work while the remaining 25% has been provided by the Catalan Government, the Generalitat.

First stone of the visitor centre

Rangel and Tresserras also laid the first stone of the future visitor centre, located near the parking area. This new building, with a €1,8 million budget, is expected to be completed during 2012 and will be used to provide all the archaeological and historical information for the visitor. It will also offer necessary services for visitors, such as a shop, toilet facilities and a bar. The building will be 860 square metres and to avoid excessive visual impact, will be covered with grass and vegetation.

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  • Catalan Minister of Culture Tresserras during the visit to the Empuries Roman forum

  • The Minister listens to the explanations of archaeologist Pere Castanyer

  • Minister of Culture Tresserras during the visit to the Empuries Roman forum

  • The rebuilt porch

  • The Minister lays the first stone of the future visitor centre

  • This is the area occupied by the porch that surrounded the square

  • The Minister lays the first stone of the future visitor centre

  • The Forum central square after having the grass that covered it since the Seventies removed

  • Minister of Culture Tresserras during the visit to the Empuries Roman forum

  • Details of the ancient religious temple walls that surrounded the main temple, whose base has been rebuilt

  • Catalan Minister of Culture Tresserras during the visit to the Empuries Roman forum
  • The Minister listens to the explanations of archaeologist Pere Castanyer
  • Minister of Culture Tresserras during the visit to the Empuries Roman forum
  • The rebuilt porch
  • The Minister lays the first stone of the future visitor centre
  • This is the area occupied by the porch that surrounded the square
  • The Minister lays the first stone of the future visitor centre
  • The Forum central square after having the grass that covered it since the Seventies removed
  • Minister of Culture Tresserras during the visit to the Empuries Roman forum
  • Details of the ancient religious temple walls that surrounded the main temple, whose base has been rebuilt
Castanyer says that under Emperor Augustus the city enjoyed its greatest splendour. Duration: 46 sec
Empuries archaeologist Pere Castanyer explains that the original building dimensions have been recovered so that visitors can better understand how the Forum was divided. Duration: 34 secs
The Minister of Culture and Media, Joan Manuel Tresserras stresses the importance of the excavation work for making the site more understandable. Duration: 48 sec