Ruins of a grand Roman country house (villa rustica) were discovered by a local school teacher at the end of the 19th century outside the village of Borg in the municipality of Perl (Germany), near where the Saar River runs into the Moselle. The Villa consisted of three wings covering an area of more than 7.5 hectares. The complex was excavated in the late 1980s.
A plan to reconstruct an authentic representation of the buildings of the Villa Rustica as they originally appeared in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD began in 1994. The project was completed in 2008. In addition to the local findings and excavation work, the reconstruction was based on similar sites of the Saar region (such as the Villa at Echternach in Luxembourg). Both antique literature (Vitruvius) and modern literature (e.g. for the reconstruction of the wall paintings) were considered. The reconstructed buildings now stand on the Roman foundation walls, revealing their probable appearance in the 2nd to 3rd centuries. The reconstruction provides a detailed impression of what life was like then in the countryside.
The Roman Villa at Borg gets 50,000 visitors a year, who come to explore the buildings, including the main manor hall, bedrooms, three baths, dressing room and relaxation solarium, a kitchen and latrines, along with gate and gardens.
Visitors enter the site of the Roman Villa Borg through the gatehouse. It stands on the original foundations and probably looks much as it did during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.
The manor hall (atrium), the Villa’s main building, was and still is the structure on which the entire villa complex is focused. Like the Roman Villa at Nennig, the reception hall had a large mosaic floor, in this case in black-and-white. The plan design of the main wing led to the assumption that the building was two-storey. The manor hall and several adjacent rooms are today used as a museum where the excavation finds are displayed.
From February to July 2013, an exhibition on Roman glass (CIRCUS BEAKERS & RIBBED BOWLS ROMAN GLASSMAKERS Mark Taylor & David Hill – work show 1989-2012) was held in the reception hall. Several dozen glass vessels found at the Villa Borg site were displayed alongside hundreds of glasses reconstructions made by Mark Taylor & David Hill.
Some rooms upstairs exhibit furniture reproductions like stools, tables, cupboards etc.
The complex also includes a fully functioning Roman bath. The baths have been rebuilt in their original way, indicating how important the bathing culture was in the Roman Empire. From the entrance area, you reach the cold bath (frigidarium) with its large pool.
Next to the reconstructed frigidarium is the caldarium, a vaulted room containing a hot bath.
Next to the caldarium and in line with ancient bathing customs is the reconstructed laconicum, the dry sweating room of the Roman thermae. The resting room was raised to a higher temperature and had no bath.
A hypocaust heated the laconicum. The suspended floor, built of bridging tiles, was supported by pilae consisting mainly of square tiles.
The next room is the medium warm room of the baths. It contains a statue of Clio, the Muse of History and a reconstructed lararium, a shrine to the guardian spirits of the Roman household (Lar Familiaris). Family members performed daily rituals at this shrine to guarantee the protection of these domestic spirits, the most significant of which were the lares.
A lararium often had the appearance of a small temple-like structure containing a small statue, a niche in the wall, or a small freestanding shrine. The painting in the reconstructed lararium is based on a fresco from a lararium in the House of the Centenary at Pompeii. The figure of Bacchus, god of wine and fertility, stands at the foot of Mount Vesuvius.
A tavern in one of the wings of the Villa Borg serves food and drinks based on Roman recipes. The Villa Borg produces its own Roman bread, which you can buy at the tavern. The bread is baked inside the reconstructed Roman kitchen (culina). The Roman cuisine is immediately adjacent to the bathhouse wing.
The gardens, which have been designed as authentically as possible based on pollen analysis and relevant literature, consist of a herb garden with spices and remedial plants, a flower garden, and a kitchen garden with fruits and vegetables. The rose garden and the inner court garden are also based on Roman models and give an idea of Roman garden architecture with their fountains and footpaths.
Every year during the first weekend of August, the “Roman Days” (Römertage) are held at the Villa. Roman legionnaires, traders and craftsmen put up their camp on the estate of the Villa Borg and present the ancient way of life. The Villa also offers a year-round variety of events.
Only the pars dominica (or urbana) has been excavated, which was the residential area exclusive to the master (dominus) and his family. Excavation work is currently being carried out in the area of the pars rustica, the area reserved for servants and workers of the farm.
The Saarland and Mosel Valley’s ancient Roman heritage has much to offer tourists and scholars. More than 120 antique sights along the Moselle and the Saar rivers, the Saarland and Luxembourg are a testament to the Gallo-Roman era north of the Alps (further information here).
Visiting the Roman Villa Borg: The Villa is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm from April to October and from 11 am to 4 pm from February to March and November. The site is closed on Mondays and in December and January.
Nearby the Roman Villa Borg, you can visit the gladiator mosaic in Nennig, the largest and most exquisite mosaic north of the Alps. Protected by a dedicated building built about 150 years ago and covering an area of roughly 160m2, the mosaic vividly portrays musicians, hunting scenes, and gladiatorial contests. The tumulus nearby is also well worth a visit.
Further photos can be viewed from my image collection on Flickr.