The site of the former Colegio Francés

The plot of the former Colegio Francés is located at the end of San Andrés Street and occupies a special place in the Archaeological Area of Huelva.

It has been made possible to study in depth the so-called North Necropolis from the Roman Empire thanks to the transformations carried out between 2000 and 2007 not only in the plot of the school but also between San Andrés Street and Plácido Buñuelos Street.

The most ancient graves are from the first half of the 1st century BC. Apparently, many mausoleums – small funeral buildings with tombs inside – were built since the middle of that century. The last phase of the necropolis belongs in the period of the Flavian Dynasty, with stepped monuments made of ashlars. One of the ashlars can be seen today in the new building, whereas the other one was buried in Plácido Buñuelos Street.

A branch of the third-century Roman aqueduct can be also seen at the school plot. A period of neglect, during which this area was greatly backfilled with sediments from the close cabezos (‘hills’), was followed by the Almohad period, which left us the rests of a house and some rubbish pits.

The complexity of the archaeological elements found at the plot made the researchers carry out several different research programs – the first one was managed by the University of Huelva. Between 2002 and 2007, the research was carried out at the same time the new houses were built. The latter had an empty space in the middle as a square so that an important part of the rests was integrated with the building. In this way, the conserved Roman constructions can be visited inside an exhibition area with information on Huelva. Today, this place is one of the milestones of the ‘Huelva, the Millennial City’ Cultural Initiative.

yacimiento antiguo Colegio Francés

For the first time in Huelva, urban agencies made it possible to create a new public area where the archaeological heritage could be admired in situ. Given the magnitude of the rests, the Provincial Commission for the Historical Heritage will suggest several modifications to the Plan General de Ordenación Urbana (‘General Project for Urban Development’, a document covering the Spanish laws on town planning) with respect to the plot of Madame Ivonne Cazenave Square. These changes would suppose a reform of the Local Building Project and the possibility of constructing buildings on that square provided that the most remarkable architectonical elements were integrated into their original, historical location.

The Integration of Archaeological Remains.

So was tackled the challenge of planning an open area for the archaeological milestones inside the building-to-be. The planning of a double-height exhibition area solves the ground unevenness between both streets and allows the exhibition of information on the patrimonial heritage of the Archaeological Area of Huelva and a high view of the Square as well. The Roman necropolis is evoked by the sentence Sit Tibi Terra Levis (‘May the earth be light to you’) – a very common epitaph in Roman burials which is incorporated into the decoration of the exhibition.

The project for the usage of illumination aspires to exhibit the rests even at night. The lights are integrated into the square and faintly light the rests. The other street furniture is located at the borders of the square to give clearance to the centre of the exhibition area.

in Onoba

The human attitude towards death is undoubtedly one of the most transcendental, important cultural events in every society. Religiousness and spirituality denote the relationships between the living and the dead – both different and identical in the societies of the past – in each historical age.

in Onoba

The human attitude towards death is undoubtedly one of the most transcendental, important cultural events in every society. Religiousness and spirituality denote the relationships between the living and the dead – both different and identical in the societies of the past – in each historical age.

Roman Religiousness

Until the influence of Christianity, death was not the end of existence for Romans, but the path to another life stage in the afterlife.

Romans had a fatalistic concept of death. The deceased had the necessity of being given all those daily, representative objects of their lives to be used in the afterlife. Several rituals and banquets were celebrated in their honour in fixed dates next to their resting place. Thus, cemeteries become crowded places, integrated into the daily life of cities.

In the Roman Empire, the necropolis (‘the City of the Dead’) is conceived as a supplement to the city of the living.

The Necropolis of Onoba

Up until know, three great funeral areas or necropolis have been found in Onuba. The Eastern Necropolis is located around the area of La Esperanza and Palos Street. The Southern Necropolis can be found at Vázquez López Street. Finally, the Northern Necropolis lies between San Andrés Street, Plácido Buñuelos Street, and Madame Ivonne Cazenave Square.

Several burials from the Late Roman Empire haven been also found at the city district of La Orden. Nevertheless, they are linked to a lesser settlement depending on Onuba.

The Eastern Necropolis is located on other of the traditional city entrances – the surroundings of the Camino de San Sebastián. The Southern Necropolis can be found close to the present location of the Great Theatre of Huelva. Vázquez López Street is considered the main southern access to the Roman city.

The Northern Necropolis can be found at what locals have traditionally named the Cuesta del Carnicero (‘The Butcher’s Slope’), one of the main accesses to the city since ages. This area, which is located at the northern part of Huelva, worked as a sanctuary for more than three hundred years. We must mainly remark the coexistence of different funeral rituals at this necropolis.

Funeral Rituals and Burials

As a general rule, the main funeral ritual during the Roman Empire until the expansion of Christianity was cremation. Funerals were one of the best-known aspects of Romanization in Huelva.

There is great range of burials in the Necropolis of Huelva. There were cremation burials in simple graves which were dug into the earth without any covering elements conserved. There were also cremation burials inside urns or rectangular graves with gabled or flat covers, which are decorated with tegulæ – a decoration which consists of the repetition of several geometrical motifs, waves, and a type of ellipse which looks like a pike –, and so on. Sometimes, the deceased people’s belongings were put by the burials. These belongings were mainly objects of personal usage, such as clothes, devices and tools related to the dead’s job, and pottery vessels – usually bowls or small pots with offerings, as well as glass salve recipients, coins, or body oil and perfume recipients.

Inhumation burials would prevail over cremation ones from the 3rd century AD on. Inhumation could be done in rectangular graves, inside which corpses were put, and could be covered with earth, flat tegulæ, or gabled tegulæ. Sometimes, inhumation burials have the form of a brick box (opus latericium), with or without decoration. Even though inhumation burials also include the deceased people’s belongings, these are rarer than in cremation burials.

The preserved burials which can be seen at Madame Ivonne Cazenave Square as an example of the Northern Necropolis of Onuba are the following:

Funeral Monument:

Function: it was a monument used for signposting the inner areas of the Northern Necropolis and commemorating a famous fact or a celebrity of Onuba. . Maybe funeral ceremonies related to the Roman cult were celebrated close to this monument

Composition: a quadrangular structure consisting of three superimposed, stepped bodies made of limestone ashlars forming a pyramid. This main body sits on a quadrangular platform made of slates of different sizes. The ensemble maybe was ended with the commemorative element over it – either a statue or a stela with an inscription which has been lost.

Circular Mausoleum

Location: found next to Plácido Buñuelos Street. It was partially destroyed with the construction of the building number 14 of this street, next to the former Colegio Francés. The rest of the ensemble appeared during the construction of the Tempa-Moliere Building in 2003.

Function: it had to be a funeral construction. Maybe the tomb of a relevant person’s of Onuba during the Empire.

Composition: the construction was carried out by digging a great circular pit into the terrain and putting inside a main polygonal base with limestone ashlars in superimposed courses.

Assessment of the Ensemble: the original ensemble was moved somewhere else and replaced with a replica. The main ashlars on the ground imitate the outer ring of the foundations of the structure.

The site of the former Colegio Francés

Dr. Plácido Bañuelos Street,14. 21004 Huelva

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