Representing the largest built structure in the Roman Helvetia capital, the Avenches Arenas were once the fighting grounds between animals and gladiators. A transformation took place in the Middle Ages to include the construction of fortification tower. This same ancient stone edifice has been welcoming dramatic productions and light opera during the last sixteen years. The Arenas have resonated to the sound of applause from tens of thousands of opera lovers for well over twenty years of grand cultural performances.
Traditionally, Avenches is an “intelligent” school trip destination, supported by teachers interested in its culture. This picturesque town in Vaud with 3,500 inhabitants is home to several of the most significant Roman architectural monuments in our country. Some 2,000 years ago, Avenches, which was then known as Aventicum, was the capital of Roman Helvetia and had about 20,000 inhabitants. Located on the Swiss Plateau’s strategic axis, it was connected to important waterways. This magnificent Roman city was largely destroyed in 275-277 A.D. by the Alamans.
The ancient site is now mostly covered by the modern city of Avenches. However, some of the Roman era’s public buildings remain well preserved and are worth visiting: The city wall with its “Tornallaz” east gate (one of the 73 old watchtowers), the forum’s baths, the theater, some vestiges of temples and shrines, as well as the amphitheater. The latter is among the largest in Switzerland (115 x 87 m) and remains the best preserved of its kind, north of the Alps.
For its construction, the Romans used a natural hill that they partially dug out. At the height of its popularity, it offered seating for 16,000 people from all social classes, who could attend the fights between animals and gladiators.
For eighteen years now, Avenches harkens back to its former glory during each summer in July: However, the former bloodthirsty cries inside the Arenas are now replaced with operatic harmonious melodies. Audiences come to the destination of their school trips from yesteryear, while enjoying the pleasures of an outdoor musical evening.