Probably among the oldest stone theatres of the classical Roman era, the Roman Theatre of Orange, Vaucluse, France, plays host to summer festivals and opera performances even today. Built early in the 1st century AD, the structure is one of the best preserved of all Roman theatres, and served the Roman colony of Arausio which was founded in 40 BC.
Constructed under the rule of the Roman monarch, King Augustus, this Theatre of Orange is believed to be one of the earliest Roman stone theatres in modern-day France. Till date, it retains the Scaenae frons, at the rear of the stage, though stripped of its elaborate decoration.
One of the most iconic parts of this structure is the grand exterior facade, which measures 103 meters long and 37 meters high. The wall was originally embellished with marble mosaics of many different colors, multiple columns and friezes, and statues placed in niches.
Though today is appears relatively sparse in decoration and embellishment, the well-preserved three storey wall still lends an overwhelmingly powerful appearance to the entire building. The main three doors on the first level of the facade open directly onto the stage inside the theatre, which can seat from 5,800 up to 7,300 persons.
This massive back wall is vital to the theatre, as it helped to project sound to the large audience, across the 61 meters long stage that sits in front of it inside the theatre. King Louis XIV of France called the theatre’s imposing façade, “The finest wall in my kingdom.” Looks like the ancient Roman architects really knew how to build those strong stone walls!