Avenches (VD)

Nowadays, Avenches is a town with 3000 inhabitants, but during the Roman period, about 20000 inhabitants lived there. She was the capital city of Helvetia and had the status of colony since the reign of the emperor Vespasianus. The decadence of thecity began during the second half of the 3rd century and it was a cathedral town up to the 6th century.

The main visible Roman monuments are the amphitheatre, the theatre, the sanctuary of the "Cigognier", the temple of the "Grange-des-Dîmes", the palace of "derrière-la-Tour", the forum baths, and the city wall. The city was supplied in water with several aqueducts. A section of one of them is still visible in Montagny (FR).


Canton: Vaud

Swiss topographic coordinates: 569'669, 192'188

Google Earth file: Avenches-en.kmz

Old names:

  • Aventicum
  • Forum Tiberii
  • Colonia Pia Flavia Constans Emerita Helvetiorum Foederata



  • Bögli Hans, Aventicum, The Roman City and the Museum, Avenches, GAS 24, 1989
  • Cardinaux Stéphane, Géométries sacrées, 2004, pp.234-237
  • Cardinaux Stéphane, Géométries sacrées, tome 2, 2006, pp. 46-47, 60-63, 179
  • Castella Daniel, Blanc Pierre, Flück Matthias, Hufschmid Thomas, Meylan Krause Marie-France, Aventicum, A Roman Capital City, Avenches, Association Pro Aventico, 2015, 128 p.
  • Hochuli-Gysel A. (dir.), Avenches, capitale des Helvètes, AS 24, 2001.2, pp. 1-96.
  • Le livre à remonter le temps (see Bibliography), pp. 25-27


Others visible sites in the area

The amphitheatre

The amphitheatre of Avenches is the second biggest amphitheatre in Switzerland, it is also the best preserved. After a first building stageat the beginning of the second century AD, approximatly 9000 spectators were able to be present and to look at fights between gladiators or wild animals. After a second building stage in the middle of the second century AD, the amphitheatre had a new capacity of 14000 spectators and a monumental gate is built on the external side of the main entrance. Nowadays, the aphithatre is used for some events such as the Opera or Rock'Oz Arènes. The Roman museum is installed in the tower built during the middle age above the main entrance.

Swiss topographic coordinates: 569'814, 192'293

The Roman museum

The museum is installed in the medieval tower above the main entrance of the amphitheatre. It is possible to look at a part of the objects found during the excavations of the Roman city, such as mosaics and painting walls, different statues decorating the mausoleums En Chaplix, a copy of the golden bust of Marcus Aurelius, statues elements from various monuments, several stone inscriptions. A room at the top level is used for the temporary exhibitions.

Swiss topographic coordinates: 569'857, 192'303

The theatre

The theatre of Avenches is the biggest of the four known Roman theatres in Switzerland but it is not the best preserved. Built from the end of the first century AD, 14000 spectators were able to take place in it. Facing the sanctuary of the "Cigognier", it could be used for religious as well as for profane shows.

Swiss topographic coordinates: 570'277, 192'203

The sanctuary of the "Cigognier"

The sanctuary of the "Cigognier" has been built between the first and the second century AD. It has this name because, during a long period, there was a stork's (in French: cigogne) nest on the top of the column. The sanctuary was probably used for the imperial worship. The golden bust of the emperor Marcus Aurelius has been discovered in a waterpipe under the sanctuary.

Swiss topographic coordinates: 570'102, 192'368

The temple known as "de la Grange des Dîmes"

This small temple has been built at the end of the first century AD. The foundations of the stairs which were at the entry of the building are the only visible remains. The room in which there was the statue of the divinity is recovered by the road.

Swiss topographic coordinates: 569'997, 192'431

The palace of "Derrière-la-Tour"

Between the first and the third century AD, a sumptuous palace has been built at the place known as "Derrière-la-Tour". This palace, whose owner was probably a rich local family, had severals yards, some rooms decorated with mural paintings and mosaics (one of them, the mosaic of Bacchus and Ariane, is now destroied), and private baths. Nowadays, it is only possible to view tho rooms of the private baths.

Swiss topographic coordinates: 569'882, 192'603

The forum baths

The forum baths were one of the three thermal baths of the Roman city, and now, they are the only one which are visible; a second establishment is waiting its restoration. Two of the three main rooms are visible under a shed. The first room (the frigidarium) is crossed under by a aqueduct, and in the second room (the tepidarium), we can see the remains of the underfloor heating (hypocaust). The establishment has been built during the second half of the first century AD.

Swiss topographic coordinates: 570'382, 192'881

The insula 23 building

Beside the main road, near the forum baths, some walls are partially visible under the grass. These walls belong to a Roman building built at the second century AD. The plan of this building - three room side by side - allows to think that it was a Capitolium (temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva). Another hypothesis is that it was a temple dedicated to Minerva - whose some elements of a acrolith (stone and wooden statue) were excavated in a lateral room - with eventually two libraries. This building has been built on the site of the first forum baths, whose excavations, between 1972 and 1975, allowed to dig up the frigidarium and a part of the tepidarium.

Swiss topographic coordinates: 570'229, 192816

The city wall

Avenches has been allowed to build its city wall when it received its status of colony, in the second half of the first century AD. The city wall has a circumference of approximatly 5,5 km, has 73 towers and several gates. The main gates are the West gate and the East gate.

Swiss topographic coordinates: