The Musee de l'Ancien Eveche (Old Bishops’ Palace Museum) is a free museum, based (as the name suggests) in Grenoble’s former Episcopal Palace. While it displays and promotes the archaeological and historical past for the whole of the Isère region, I first want to look at the significance of the site itself. In 1989, archaeological excavations ahead of the installation of the tram system uncovered the remains of an early Christian baptistery. The baptistery was first built in the late fourth century and underwent many changes and developments over its 500-year life. As I understand it, the earliest phase consisted of a large, square pool about 0.75m deep to accommodate total-immersion baptisms. When liturgical changes reduced the baptism ritual to the simple sprinkling of water, the size of the pool was reduced, though the surroundings were decorated and embellished. Today, the site of the baptistery is marked out on the street while the archaeological remains have been preserved in situ directly below. Access is via the museum’s basement and the area contains other in situ material, including large portions of the city’s Roman walls.
|Section of Roman wall discovered in excavations|
|Central baptistery pool. Photographed in 2003|
|Detail of lead pipe which fed the pool. Photographed in 2003|
|Overview of baptismal pool|