Dominating the plaine des Laumes above Alésia is the seven-metre high bronze statue of Vercingétorix, placed there in 1865 at the orders of Napoleon III. The only non-inaugurated memorial in France, the statue was the work of Aimé Millet (who is also responsible for the Apollo atop the Paris Opéra) and commemorates the Gaul's battle against Julius César and the Romans on the fields below in 52BC. The Battle of Alésia is popularly considered as the beginning of the history of France (the physical land) as we know it today and saw Cesar carry out a siege on the numerically inferior Gauls which resulted, despite heavy resistance, in Gaul becoming a Roman province. Visitors to the town can currently see some of the archaeological sites in the area as well as visit the ruins of the Gallo-Roman town, although until now there has been no facility dedicated to the battle and its legacy. Due to open in March 2011, the MuseoParc Alésia will change this in dramatic fashion if only for its unique, contemporary design signed Bernard Tschumi. The magnificent wood and glass structure while will house an interactive museum designed to inform and capture the imagination of its visitors as well as to highlight the importance of the battle on not only the French but on all of Europe. Projections, multimedia installations and films will be partnered by replicas of the fortifications used during the battle as well as some of the 300,000 objects found during excavations on the 17,000 acre site. The centre will have both a gift shop/library and a restaurant serving food inspired from ancient recipes. There are also plans to make the rest of the Alésia site accessible by foot, cycle and even on horseback.
Abbaye de Fontenay