To see the old sanctuary at La Chapelle-des-Fougeretz (Ille-et-Vilaine), you have to be imaginative. On its current site, an agricultural area near Rennes intended to accommodate residential buildings, the place of worship has left only traces on the ground, fragmented tiles and a few buried remains. Most of its walls were recovered at the end of Roman times for the construction of other buildings.

However, archaeologists from the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) have reconstructed the plan of the building with precision. Bastien Simier, responsible for the excavation operation that has been taking place there since March, shows the sanctuary as if we were there. A square of 60 meters on each side is dug on the ground. This is where the gallery of columns that delimited the construction was erected. Inside, other lines designate the location of two fanums, typical Gallic temples dedicated to deities. Access to these places was restricted to certain segments of the population. Those who could not enter gathered on the vast esplanade in front of the building.

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But, in the absence of written sources on the sanctuary, retracing its history is a long-term task. Each unearthed object can therefore play a crucial role. Pieces of ceramics, for example, have been dated precisely. They prove an occupation of the site from the 1st century BC. AD and for at least five centuries. At that time, the territory belonged to the Riédons, Celts from the northwest of Gaul. Some finds say a lot about their religious practices: a bronze statuette of the god Mars, a bronze cup with designs reminiscent of Jupiter, and coins deposited as an offering. “It was an important public sanctuary,” says Bastien Simier. There must not have been many around the city of Rennes [Condate], a capital in Roman times. »

Other surprises awaited the archaeologists. Around the sanctuary they found the remains of a small village and a thermal building. “It’s really an opportunity for us to expand the research,” says the archaeologist. Because, often, in older excavations, we only excavated the temples and not necessarily what was around. To do this, Inrap has a vast playground: it plans to excavate more than 7 hectares by the end of the project in October, double the area covered to date.

“What interests us about an excavation like this is to understand the origin of our countryside, to collect information on the way of life, the social organization, the patterns of the roads, the plots to restore the organization of the northern Rennes basin in Roman times”, emphasizes Bastien Simier.