The Town Baths of Xanten, Germany (Colonia Upia Traiana)
LVR-Archaeological Park Xanten / LVR-RömerMuseum
* Trajanstraße 4, 46509 Xanten, Germany * Phone: +49 (0) 28 01 / 712 – 0 * firstname.lastname@example.org * http://www.apx.de/english/roemermuseum/largebaths/
In the heart of the Roman Museum at Xanten’s notorious Archaeological Park lies the ancient Town Baths of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. The monumental size and stature of the bath houses resembled a palace in many ways. These baths were constructed in AD 125 during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. They manifest the Roman bathing culture in the province of Lower Germany. The well preserved remains of the foundation walls, pools, heating ducts and fireplaces are housed by a modern architecture masterpiece that serves as a protective building whose outer shape reflects the fascinating dimensions of the original remains from the rain and sun while keeping the impressive dimensions of the Roman architecture. The layout of the floor permits a fairly accurate reconstruction of the bath’s architecture – seen from outside, the different roof designs of the building give an impression of the bath’s complex construction. Within, the modern steel structures visualize the imposing dimensions of the rooms. Red steel girders mark the former position of columns, walls and arches. Visitors who first took a look at the reconstructed Hostel Baths can even better imagine the grand effect of the larger Town Baths. The Town Baths were far more than a place for relaxation and personal hygiene. This is where the Romans met with neighbours and friends, exchanged news, cut deals and sometimes also made political decisions. The baths were the city’s meeting point and social centre. The bathing wing was the heart of a big complex close to the city centre. Arcades with rows of stores, latrines, a water tower and a huge entrance hall were grouped around a wide courtyard. The complex provided everything the Romans needed to relax body and soul. The new RömerMuseum sits on the foundation walls of the former entrance hall. In an area of 11.500 square meters there was the main building, which included a multi-purpose hall, cold, lukewarm, and warm baths, as well as sweating rooms, an open-air area for sporting activities, and auxiliary buildings with toilets. The baths were discovered in 1879 and almost completely excavated by 1993. In order to protect the ancient fabric, in 1997/1998 the steel and glass construction were erected. The baths were located in big, magnificently decorated rooms with floors/walls cald with marble and the pillars and external facade elaborately designed. [abstracted from the apx website, brochure, and signs ]
As one enters the building through the big hall from the south find themselves in the “Frigidarium” or “the cold bath” whose narrow sides were lined with cold water basins for refreshment. The remains of the basins and floors have been preserved.
On either side of the cold bath was a sweating bath. Like today’s Finnish saunas, these permitted guests to sweat profusely at high temperatures. The Roman sweating baths were heated by furnaces that were located in adjacent rooms.
Then, bathers reached two big heated halls where they could get a massage or simply relax. Here, too, the remains of the furnaces on the narrow sides have been preserved.
At the far end of the building was the 350 square metre hot bath where the temperatures were very high. It consisted of a large central room with two lateral apsises which probably housed bath tubs.
From antique documents we know that many Romans visited the baths on a daily basis. Usually the baths opened around noon and remained open until dark. A stay at the baths was very diverting. In addition to the diversion provided by other bathers, merchants and food stalls offered a wide range of snacks and goods. Visitors could attend events, play ball games in the courtyard or just chat with friends and acquaintances.