Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren (Belgium)

The Gallo-Roman Museum is an archeological museum located in Tongeren in the Belgian province of Limburg. It is dedicated to the prehistorical times and Roman age of the region in South West Flanders. The museum was established in 1954 and received its modern building in 1994. It was awarded the European Museum of the Year prize in 2011.

The permanent exhibition begins with a display of the Neanderthals who were the first people living in the region some 500,000 years ago. The first floor features the following cultures of hunter-gatherers (15000 BC) and several waves of farmers (5300 BC). The third floor is dedicated to the Gallo-Roman culture located in Tongeren. The exhibition closes with the first signs of Christianity.

Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.

In the summer of 57 BC the troops of Julius Caesar invaded the country of the rivers Scheldt and Meuse in northern Gaul (Gallia Belgica). They made treaties and alliances with some local groups and with the leaders of the Eburones, Ambiorix and Catuvolcus. In 54 BC Caesar’s troops urgently needed more food, a situation which led to the local tribes to be forced to hand over part of their harvest to the Roman army. Unlike other tribes, the Eburones were reluctant to do so and Ambiorix decided to strike the invaders. He attacked the Roman camp but without success. He then requested a parley with the Roman commanders Sabinus and Cotta Ambiorix. Telling them he was a friend of Rome, he advised them to flee as a large Germanic force was preparing to cross the Rhine. Trusting Ambiorix, Sabinus and Cotta’s troops left the next morning. A short distance from their camp, the Roman troops were ambushed and massacred by the Eburones. Six thousands Roman soldiers were killed.

Statue of Ambiorix erected in 1866 in Tongeren.
Statue of Ambiorix erected in 1866 in Tongeren.

Caesar came storming back to the region, sending waves of troops to put down all the Belgic tribes. The Roman campaigns against the Belgae took a few years, but eventually the tribes were slaughtered or driven out and their fields burnt. The Eburones disappeared from history after this genocidal event. According to the writer Florus, Ambiorix and his men succeeded in crossing the Rhine and disappeared without a trace.

In 10 BC the Romans founded Tongeren. Atuatuca Tungrorum was the first city in the region and was strategically situated in a fertile agricultural zone on the road between Boulogne, Bavay (France) and Cologne (Germany).

Earthenware from all over the Empire. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Earthenware from all over the Empire.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Earthenware made in Tongeren. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Earthenware made in Tongeren.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.

Tongeren became the centre of the district of the Tungri, or the civitas Tungronum, an area dominating what is today eastern Belgium. The city would develop into a real Roman town (municipium) with typical public and private buildings and streets, surrounded by a monumental city wall.

Reconstruction of Atuatuca Tungrorum around 150 AD (by Ugo Janssens).
Reconstruction of Atuatuca Tungrorum around 150 AD (by Ugo Janssens).

The Forum, the beating heart of the city

Scale model of Atuatuca Tungrorum around 150 AD showing in the middle the Temple, the Forum and the Basilica. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Scale model of Atuatuca Tungrorum around 150 AD showing in the middle the Temple, the Forum and a bathing complex.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Fragments of architecture from monumental buildings of the Forum. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Fragments of architecture from monumental buildings of the Forum.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.

The temple complex, the place to honour the gods

Model of the Temple complex. The temple was built ca. 150-160 AD on a artificial terrace in the north of the city. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Model of the Temple complex. The temple was built ca. 150-160 AD on a artificial terrace in the north of the city.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Votive stones and images of gods, from the Temple complex and other sacred places. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Votive stones and images of gods, from the Temple complex and other sacred places.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Fragments from a Jupiter Column, a statue group portraying Jupiter on horseback trampling giants with serpent bodies, 150-175 AD. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium
Fragments from a Jupiter Column, a statue group portraying Jupiter on horseback trampling two giants with serpent bodies, 150-175 AD.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium
Jupiter Column, a statue group portraying Jupiter on horseback trampling giants with serpent bodies, 150-175 AD. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Top of a Jupiter Column, a statue group portraying Jupiter on horseback trampling two giants with serpent bodies, 150-175 AD.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.

Only a small fragment now remains of the great Roman temple, once 130m x 55m on a podium that was 2.75m high. The temple has recently been partially reconstructed over the remaining foundations.

Partial reconstruction of the Roman Temple over the remaining foundations in Tongeren.
Partial reconstruction of the Roman Temple over the remaining foundations in Tongeren.
Partial reconstruction of the Roman Temple over the remaining foundations in Tongeren.
Partial reconstruction of the Roman Temple over the remaining foundations in Tongeren.
Terracotta figurines and bronze statuettes of gods. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Terracotta figurines and bronze statuettes of gods.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Terracotta figurines of Fortuna produced in series. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Terracotta figurines of Fortuna produced in series.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.

The town houses, designed and decorated in Roman style

Model of a luxurious town house in Atuatuca Tungrorum in 150 AD. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Model of a luxurious town house in Atuatuca Tungrorum in 150 AD.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
19m long mosaic that once lay in a covered gallery (portico) of a luxury town house, Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren. Belgium.
19m long mosaic that once lay in a covered gallery (portico) of a luxury town house, Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren.
Belgium.
Reconstructed wall painting from fragments, it decorated the the most important room of a luxurious town house in Atuatuca Tungrorum. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Reconstructed wall painting from fragments which decorated the most important room of a luxurious town house in Atuatuca Tungrorum.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Reconstructed wall painting from fragments, it decorated the the most important room of a luxurious town house in Atuatuca Tungrorum. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Reconstructed wall painting from fragments which decorated the most important room of a luxurious town house in Atuatuca Tungrorum.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Underfloor heating (hypocaust) from a luxury residence, the floor was supported by pillars of round terracotta blocks. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Underfloor heating (hypocaust) from a luxury residence, the floor was supported by pillars of round terracotta blocks.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.

The storage of grain kept in gigantic storage place

Model of the Horreum (grain storage) around 150 AD. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Model of the Horreum (grain storage) around 150 AD which stood outside the city walls. The region around Tongeren was one of the biggest grain-growing areas in Gaul. Most of the grain was sent to the military camps along the Rhine.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.

Humble and ostentatious graves

Architectural elements of graves, around 150 AD Atuatuca Tungrorum had three burial grounds. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Architectural elements of graves, around 150 AD Atuatuca Tungrorum had three burial grounds.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.

The city walls

Fragment of the city walls consisting of rough blocks of flint and rubble set in mortar, the city walls were built in the 2nd centuy AD and were more than 4km in length. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Fragment of the city walls consisting of rough blocks of flint and rubble set in mortar, the city walls were built in the 2nd century AD and were more than 4km in length.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
The remains of the city walls in Tongeren.
The remains of the city walls in Tongeren.

Luxurious life in Roman country villas

Model of a luxurious country villa around 175/200 AD. Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Model of a luxurious country villa around 175/200 AD.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Tongeren, Belgium.

From the middle of the 3rd century AD, the period of the Pax Romana was disturbed by the first barbarian invasions. The town of Atuatuca was taken and pillaged by the Franks around 275-76 and the Romans army built a series of forts along the road linking Cologne to the North Sea. The region increasingly took on a military character and by 310 AD Atuatuca became a military base. The Germanic newcomers were allowed to establish themselves in the region and were enrolled in the military. In 350 AD the city became the centre of a Christian diocese under the influence of Saint Servatius. However, the seat of the bishop was later moved to Maastricht. At the beginning of the 5th century AD, large groups of Germanic tribes broke through the defences. With the Roman army falling back, Tongeren declined and was later abandoned.

Modern statue of Flavius Claudius Julianus (Julian the Apostate) in Tongeren, Beligium.
Modern statue of Flavius Claudius Julianus (Julian the Apostate) in Tongeren.
In 358 AD, Julian gained victories over the Salian Franks on the Lower Rhine, settling them in Toxandria in the Roman Empire, north of today’s city of Tongeren.

Information

Gallo-Roman Museum
Kielenstraat 15
3700 Tongeren
tel: 012 67 03 55

http://www.galloromeinsmuseum.be/
e-mail: grm@limburg.be

Opening hours

From Tuesday until Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
school holidays from Tuesday until Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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