Detail map of Paris, Île-de-France, France Overview map of Paris, Île-de-France, France

A: Paris, Île-de-France, France

The Pillar of the Boatmen, the Oldest Sculptural Group Found in France

Circa 25 CE
<p>Le pilier des Nautes:&nbsp;the gods&nbsp;<a class="mw-redirect" title="Tarvos trigaranus" href="">Tarvos trigaranus</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a title="Vulcan (mythology)" href="">Vulcan</a>.&nbsp;Mus&eacute;e National du Moyen Age, Thermes de Cluny.</p>

Le pilier des Nautes: the gods Tarvos trigaranus and Vulcan. Musée National du Moyen Age, Thermes de Cluny.

The Pillar of the Boatmen (Pilier des nautes), a square-section stone bas-relief with depictions of several deities, both Gaulish and Roman, and dated by imperial inscription, is the oldest sculptural group ever found in France. It dates to about 25 CE.

The pillar, which originally stood in a temple in the Gallo-Roman civitas of Lutetia (Paris, France), is one of the earliest pieces of representational Gaulish art to carry a written inscription.

"It is composed of four blocks that were discovered in 1710, reused in a Late Roman wall found beneath Notre Dame. Their origin remains a mystery-however, all other Early Roman stone blocks discovered on the Île de la Cité came from monuments originally on the city's left bank.

"There have been a number of attempts to reassemble the blocks; the bas-reliefs and inscriptions on all four sides make it certain that they were arranged vertically. Not all of the pieces of the pillar have been found, but we may imagine that it stood on a base, and it is possible that the pillar was topped by some sort of statue.  

"This group is particularly noteworthy because it mixes images from the Greco-Roman pantheon, Celtic divinities and inscriptions highlighted in red ocher. The Boatmen's Pillar is one of the rare testaments to Gallic mythology that has come down to us" (, accessed 06-17-2011).

Timeline Themes