Grand (France)

Roman aqueducts: Grand (France) Grand - ANDESINA
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In Roman times the village of Grand (300 km E of Paris, France) was a well-known sanctuary where even Roman emperors used to come. Here Apollo Grannus was worshipped. The name of this deity was a combination of a native, Gallic name Granno (or Grannus) and the name of a well-known Roman god: Apollo, god of l ight / sun, music, and war. The name of the village of Grand may be derived from Grannus. Its ancient name Andesina is presented on the famous Peutinger map, even with a special symbol, in between Toul (Tullio) and Naix-aux-Forges (Nasie). On other atlases it is indicated as Grannum or Aquae Granni.
Ancient Andesina - present Grand - was situated 15 km W of one of the major Roman roads in Gallia, from Lugdunum (Lyon), via Tullum (Toul) and Mettis (Metz), to Treverorum (Trier, Germany).

At present Grand is a quiet village with 500 inhabitants and 20 streets. The ancient town must have been a really busy place with temples, guesthouses, shops, a vicus, games, processions, religious services, fountains, festivals, and priests. Possibly a court was present. All this we know from excavations, written sources, from similar cult-places and/or inscriptions.

What could be found in Roman times: a large semi-circular amphitheater with about 17.000 seats, a basilica (a big hall, like the one in Trier, Germany) in ancient times in use by traders, jurists and administrative people, here well-equipped with a large mosaic of 225 m2, a town wall with originally 17 towers and only a few gates: three at the N side towards the vicus (living quarters), a double but blind one in the W wall and a monumental gate on the east side, with direct access to the precint of the temple, several bath buildings, the major one was situated inside the town wall, the temple of Apollo Grannus and its porticus (colonnade) centered around a sacred pool. All this was enclosed by a pomerium: the religious boundary of a site, made by a priest with plough pulled by an ox after the location of a Roman town or camp was determined. In ancient time this furrow was indicated as a ditch, in present Grand the pomerium is still visible, but now as a kind of peripheral road. Of special interest are a series of over 300 manholes with access to a vast underground network of water channels and a subterranean stream.
Unfortunately only the museum including the mosaic floor of the basilica, the remains of the amphitheater, and some manholes of the subterranean water network are still visible. Both the museum and the amphitheater are equipped with small exhibition rooms, a film projection (museum) and modest bookshops.

Artist impression
One surmises that all this was centered around a water sanctuary. The soil in this area comprises partly of karst, a porous substance that partly dissolves in water. Precipitation percolates very vast into the soil and makes natural channels, caves, and even subterranean streams like the one in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse (Southern France). When the water reaches an impermeable layer which enters the surface the water is forced to come to light as a kind of spring. After some distance the water stream may go subterranean again into the karst ground.

This special phenomenon was given a religious meaning and formed the basis of a cult-site, a religious sanctuary. In front of the main temple a subterranean karst stream came to light as the artist impression shows, which fed a 'sacred pool' and descended again. Temple and pool were surrounded by a large porticus which was interrupted by a monumental gate at the E. side. On a later date the Romans added a vast network of subterranean channels to augment the natural source. Other channels were added in support of the water supply of the public fountains, the baths and possibly some house of wealthy citizens.
The main church in present Grand was built above the 'sacred pool' - it is quite usual to built a church above an ancient pagan site in order to 're-baptize' it - but is recently put out of use because of stability problems.

The importance of Grand as a religious center is underlined by the testimonies of ancient authors. Cassius Dio reports that in 213 ad emperor Caracalla looking for relief for his body and soul by the most famous gods, but nor Apollo Grannus (in Grand, France), nor Asklepion (in Pergamon, present Turkey), nor Serapis (in Alexandria, Egypt) were able to help him despite the numerous supplications and his perseverance (History 78, 15, 5-6).

On occasion of a travel to Trier (Germany) in 309 ad, Constantine the Great made a detour to pay a visit to Grand - according to an anonymous writer in a panegyric - to the most beautiful sanctuary of the (Roman) world even with the deity who has his seat there as you have seen. Because, as you have seen, I believe that your protector Apollo, accompanied by Victory, offers you crowns with laurel each bringing you 30 years of prosperity (PL VII, 21, 3-4).

Wilke Schram


Recommended literature : in: Les Dossiers d'Archeologie vol 162, July/August 1991:
  • J.-P. Bertaux: Les galeries souterraines
  • O. André and V. Bertaux: Les aqueducs souterrains construits par les Romains
Recommended websites   :
How to visit                  : see above
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Aerial view

Schematic plan

Mosaic in the Basilica

Semi circular amphitheater

City wall plus gate

Plan of the water network

Grand Jardin

Well / Access shaft

Entrance to the network

View into the channel

The conduit proper

Side wall


A buckling

Flat roof


Types of access shafts

Into the channel

Apollo Grannus

Dedication to Caracalla