Théâtre antique d'Orange World Heritage Site

Ancient Roman theatre in Orange, France

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Roman Theatre of Orange
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Le Théâtre Antique d'Orange, 2007.jpg
LocationOrange, Vaucluse, France
Part ofRoman Theatre and its Surroundings and the "Triumphal Arch" of Orange
CriteriaCultural: (iii), (iv)
Inscription1981 (5th session)
Area9.41 ha (23.3 acres)
Buffer zone116 ha (290 acres)
Coordinates44°8′8.6″N 4°48′30.3″E / 44.135722°N 4.808417°E / 44.135722; 4.808417Coordinates: 44°8′8.6″N 4°48′30.3″E / 44.135722°N 4.808417°E / 44.135722; 4.808417
Roman Theatre of Orange is located in Vaucluse
Roman Theatre of Orange
Location of Roman Theatre of Orange in Vaucluse
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Roman Theatre of Orange is located in France
Roman Theatre of Orange
Roman Theatre of Orange (France)
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The Roman Theatre of Orange (French: Théâtre antique d'Orange) is a Roman theatre in Orange, Vaucluse, France. It was built early in the 1st century AD. The structure is owned by the municipality of Orange and is the home of the summer opera festival, the Chorégies d'Orange.

It is one of the best preserved of all Roman theatres, and served the Roman colony of Arausio (or, more specifically, Colonia Julia Firma Secundanorum Arausio: "the Julian colony of Arausio established by the soldiers of the second legion") which was founded in 40 BC. Playing a major role in the life of the citizens, who spent a large part of their free time there, the theatre was seen by the Roman authorities not only as a means of spreading Roman culture to the colonies, but also as a way of distracting them from all political activities.

Mime, pantomime, poetry readings and the "attelana" (a kind of farce rather like the commedia dell'arte) were the dominant forms of entertainment, much of which lasted all day. For the common people, who were fond of spectacular effects, magnificent stage sets became very important, as was the use of stage machinery. The entertainment offered was open to all and free of charge.

As the Western Roman Empire declined during the 4th century, by which time Christianity had become the official religion, the theatre was closed by official edict in AD 391, since the Church opposed what it regarded at the time as uncivilized spectacles. It was probably pillaged by the Visigoths in 412, and like most Roman buildings was certainly stripped of its better stone over the centuries for reuse. It was used as a defensive post in the early Middle Ages, and by the 12th century began to be used by the Church for religious plays. During the 16th-century religious wars, it became a refuge for the townspeople. It has since been restored to its former function, primarily for opera, along side its use as a tourist spot.

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Théâtre antique d'Orange

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