Plan of the insula of the Collège de France baths.

Map: © D. Busson, V. Charlanne

The largest bathing complex in Lutetia

The « du Collège de France » baths were identified by Théodore Vacquer in the 19th century. The parts beneath the Collège were destroyed, but those beneath adjacent medieval houses are still in a good state of preservation. The building was constructed within an insula that was perfectly integrated into the Roman town's urban grid pattern. It occupied an area of nearly 2 hectares, making it the largest bathing complex in Lutetia. Two parts can be identified: a large courtyard-no doubt a palaestra-possibly with a building facing it, and the second part consisting of baths themselves.

Terraced pools

We know very little about this monument, and it is difficult to determine the function of most of the rooms.

We do know where the entrance was and, as a general rule, only the hot part of the building is identifiable by the presence of hypocausts. Two large circular rooms are noteworthy-they are built over mixed hypocausts, and may be pools with terraces providing seating for bathers. Next door, a space with a marble-lined niche, probably a cold-water pool, served as frigidarium.

A building impossible to reconstruct

The reconstruction of the technical circuits is very difficult. Only a few rare decorative elements from this building have come down to us. These include Doric elements, some in marble, and a large stone Composite capital bearing traces of paint.

However, these are not enough to allow us to reconstruct the building, which underwent many refurbishments in its lifetime-from its construction in the late 1st century to its demolition in the late 4th century.