It is a monument classified as a Historic Monument in 1840. Under the orders of Lucien Bonaparte its demolition was stopped. The amphitheatre would have been built on the occasion of the arrival of the Emperor Caracalla in Aquitaine. The Palais Gallien has been the subject of various archaeological excavations since the 19th century.
The construction of the Palais Gallien dates from the 2nd century AD, according to archaeological studies carried out in early 2010. These Bordeaux arenas seem to have been built later than other French arenas, such as those in Nîmes or Arles. The Palais Gallien is one of the only visible remains of the “Pax Romana” period in Bordeaux.
This is the oldest Gallo-Roman remains visible in the city today. It was probably destroyed by fire in 276AD during the first barbarian invasions. At the time when Bordeaux was still called “Burdigala”, the roar of the beasts and the cries of gladiators were present in this amphitheatre.
It has suffered many damages over the centuries. As a result, today most of the original buildings have disappeared. However, aerial views allow us to see much of the original form.
These arenas were 132 metres long and 115 metres wide at the time, and could accommodate more than 15,000 spectators. However, the Gallien Palace was never a palace but an amphitheatre where the circus games so prized by the Roman population were held.
Later, located outside the fortified city, its ruins were used as a refuge for thieves or outlaws, and for women of liberal virtue. Rumour had it that it was a meeting place for witches, before a mayor during the Revolution transformed it into a public quarry!
The building is now called the Palais Galien, according to a legend evoking the construction in Bordeaux, by Charlemagne, of a palace in honour of a Spanish princess named Galliène.
Indeed, it was around the year 1000 that the legend about the Palais Gallien was born. Galliene was Charlemagne’s wife. The emperor was so in love with her that he built this famous palace for her. In the 16th century, Elie Vinet discovered the secret of the palace and turned it into a coliseum. However, he was fooled by the misleading name : The emperor Gallien took the place of Galenie. The woman was a chimera, the palace a myth, the emperor Gallien a usurper.
Would you like to know more about these remains? Come and visit Bordeaux with our convertible coach! The 60-minute audio-guided tour will enable you to find out more about Bordeaux’s key monuments.
Rue du Docteur Albert Barraud, 33000 Bordeaux