Natural hot springs bubble in Évaux-les-Bains. With a mineral content that includes sulphates, sodium, nitrogen and iron, they have healing properties that have been documented since antiquity.
Several archaeological excavations have confirmed the existence of Gallo-Roman thermal baths that were built towards the end of the first century underneath the current town of Évaux.
The significance of these ancient thermal baths was revealed by the remains of a huge arcade that was rare in Gaul. This covered path was almost 700 metres long. Starting from the site of what is now the church on the plateau, it went down to the entrance of the thermal baths. At 6.70 m wide, it was possible to travel through it both on foot, and in a carriage drawn by horses, oxen or donkeys, which was necessary for invalids in particular. A frame covered in tiles protected those taking the waters from bad weather when going up or down the path or pausing in the little recesses that were set along the edge of the path every 100 metres.
The foundations of one of the two long, low walls on which this structure rests are still partially visible when going down to the thermal baths.
There was likely a sacred welcoming temple at the entrance to this covered path, close to today’s church, which took its place in a vast complex that included worship buildings. Évaux’s ancient thermal baths appear to have had an important sacred aspect that was probably linked to the water’s healing properties.
The many members of staff who worked to keep the baths running lived in an urban area that is now integrated into the town of Évaux-les-Bains.
The thermal baths and arcade were destroyed by a fire towards the end of the 3rd century, followed by a cliff collapse that partially buried the baths. Although they were rebuilt in part, they were ultimately abandoned in the 4th century.