The Maison Carrée in Nîmes, in France, is one of the best-preserved Roman temples of the former Roman Empire. It is an excellent example of Vitruvian architecture.
The temple was built from 10 BCE until CE 3. The temple was dedicated to Gaius and Lucius, the adopted heirs of Caesar Augustus. They were the sons of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the original master builder of the Pantheon in Rome.
The temple is so well preserved because it was converted into a Christian church in the fourth century. It was successively a meeting room for city councilors, a canon house, a horse stable during the French Revolution, and a repository for city archives. It became a museum after 1823.
The French name is derived from the archaic carré long, which literally means “long square”, referring to the shape of the building.
The Maison Carrée is a good example of a classic Augustinian temple. Erected on a 2.85 m high podium, the temple dominated the city’s forum, forming a rectangle almost twice as long as it is wide (26.42 x 13.54 m). Its front is dominated by a deep portico or pronaos, taking up almost a third of its full length.
It has ten columns crowned with Corinthian capitals under the pediment, and another 20 semicolons around the rest of the building’s exterior. The architrave above the columns has fine reliefs with rosettes and acanthus leaves. A large door (6.87 x 3.27 m) leads to the remarkably narrow and windowless interior, where the shrine or cella was originally located. It is now used for exhibitions. There are no remains of the earlier decoration in the cella.