Maison Carree, Nimes
Maison Carree in Nimes was built in around 20 or 19 BCE, during the Roman urbanization of the Celtic’s land in southern France (Gaul). Maison Carree was one of several buildings done under Augustus’ rule.
It was originally commissioned by his son-in-law Marcus Agrippa, but the person who designed it is unknown. It is known that its design was heavily influenced by Greek architecture as is evidenced by the Corinthian pillars. However, by this time, the Roman architects had developed their own style as well and this can also be seen in the Maison Carree in the raised platforms and wide front steps which had evolved from the Etruscan style of architecture. It was also inspired by the temples to Mars and Apollo and much of it was modeled after the temples to these gods. In short, Maison Carree, among other buildings that were being constructed at this time, was a merging of Etruscan temple style and Greek style, with heavier influence from the Greeks than from the Romans who tended towards curves and domes.
Maison Carree was a temple dedicated to Rome, Augustus and his two adopted sons Lucius and Gaius Caesar rather than to a deity as most temples were. It became a cult temple to follow the celebrated Emperor and his sons. It is the most well preserved Roman temple-in fact the only completely preserved temple in the world-since it has been used for things like a Christian church in the fourth century, archives, a canon’s house, and the town hall for Nimes since its construction. It is now a tourist site and a place where art and Roman artifacts are housed.
The name Maison Carree is derived from archaic French carré long, meaning ‘long square’ for the obvious reason that it is rectangular in shape.