History of the port
With the creation of the port of Fréjus, the ambition was not only to create a marina but to develop the seafront of Fréjus-Plage and to bring back the water to the ancient Roman harbour. And eventually connect the town centre to the sea via a new urban harbour lined with businesses and offering cultural and leisure activities.
The construction operation that began in 1989 has rapidly reached the majority of those goals and brought some unique benefits to the harbour.
Yesterday: the Roman Port
2000 years ago the Romans gave the town of Fréjus the name of Forum Julii, when it became one of the most important military ports in the Mediterranean Sea. Bigger than the one in Massilia (Marseille), more active and more developed than the neighbouring ports, its history would permanently mark the town of Fréjus.
Despite the ravages of time and despite being stranded by the sand and eventually abandoned, the Ancient port has remained in the memory waiting to give back to the town and its people their common destiny: the sea.
Today: The European Port
The official opening on the 12th July 1989 after 10 years of dedicated work returned Fréjus to its maritime importance. The result matched expectations with the birth of a 7.2 hectare port, a 65 m entrance, a lee side breakwater 220m in length and 706 rings for 5 to 30 metre long boats.
Port Fréjus now is one of the main marinas on the Mediterranean coast. Its up to date and unique conception make it stand out. Port Fréjus has been made to accommodate boats of every size, as do most of the other marinas on the French Riviera, but it also offers a great urban area with 3000 accommodations, cultural and leisure activities with a touch of its own spirit.
It is an innovative concept that since 1992 has never stopped attracting those who love the French Riviera and want to be part of its future.
Tomorrow: Port Frejus II
To build the new district, Mr Elie Brun, Maire of Fréjus and his councillors have consulted a team of experts such as jurists, chartered accountants, city technicians, urbanists and architects. The extension of the site will include a canal for the boats that reaches the Avenue de Provence in direct line with the Church Tower. And new basins throughout the canal will give extra mooring space.
The Ancient Port
Today, although largely buried, the Ancient port’s visible remains are protected under the Monuments Historiques. It is an artificial basin that was dug in the marshes surrounding the rocky spur where the town was built. It is therefore located inland at around 1200 m from the sea.
In the ancient past the port was 900 m from the shore, and it is still possible to follow a 460 m stretch of the ancient canal which shows the remains of the Western crenelated wall.
The basin was built in the shape of an irregular 17 hectare polygon. It was surrounded by docks and enclosed to the south by a 560 m long wall.
The entrance of the port was marked by a beacon known under the name of the “Lanterne d’Auguste”. This was a 10 m high hexagonal building that had a polygonal roof. It rested on a more ancient building made of two semi-circular exedrae. In the North West side of the basin archaeological searches have revealed an esplanade leading to a sheltered dock via a slipway (under the Porte d’Orée car park). This port remained untouched since Antiquity and was still in use during the Middle Ages until the XVIII century when it was known under the name of “étang” (pond), as its area had been considerably reduced.
Port Fréjus was a most important maritime site during the Roman era with visiting warships like the one that belonged to Cleopatra which was taken by Octavius-Augustus in 31 BC during the battle of Actium.
La Porte d’Orée (the door of Orée)
It was not a door but the arch belonging to a monumental Roman public baths or thermae (2nd century AD), located on the banks of the ancient port. There were further public baths in Forum Julii.
La Butte St Antoine (St Antony’s Mound)
Commanding and surrounding the West and North East side of the port, these big houses were built during the time of Augustus or a few years before. Built upon the massive embankment and enclosed by walls these buildings did not have a defensive function. Because of their size they were more likely to be public and private buildings, most probably to accommodate magistrates or the commanding officer of the fleet. On their walls can be seen the small pink sandstones that characterised Forum Julii
Only the Southern quays are still visible. It is easy to follow their path from the Butte Ste Antoine to the Lanterne d’Auguste. After the Lanterne you will arrive at the wall that protects the access to the sea.
The Lanterne d’Auguste
This 10 m high tower has a hexagonal base mounted by a 6 sided pyramid which has a bevelled cornice that is separated from the base.
It was probably some sort of beacon showing the entrance to the Roman Port.
The port accommodated warships and boats that safeguarded the coast for at least the 1st and 2nd centuries.
Located on the route linking Italy, Marseille, Narbonne and Spain the port also attracted merchant vessels, that could drop anchor in the 17 hectare basin surrounded by docks and protective walls, all connected to the sea and the town by a large canal.
The sea brought its wealth to the land. Fishing in particular allowed the people to make allec (herring), a kind of condiment made with the decomposed flesh of fish.
L’Hermès de Fréjus
In 1970 during archaeological digs in the remains of a Roman villa a two-headed Hermes sculpted in white marble and dating back to the middle of the 1st century AD was unearthed. The bust of Hermes is now the symbol of the town and has inspired the artist that created the colossal fountain adorning the Porte d’Hermès.