Roman Villa of Kerkrade-Kaalheide

Principal facade of the Roman villa of Kerkrade-Kaalheide Principal facade of the Roman villa of Kerkrade-Kaalheide in its most extended layout. This side of the villa faced the valley of a creek.
Reconstruction and drawing: PANSA BV

The stone villa of Kerkrade-Kaalheide was built on the southern slopes of the Krichelberg during the second century AD. From the portico in front of the villa one overlooked the valley of a nearby creek. For Roman architecture in the Netherlands the villa was of a normal size (core building and portico together: 16, 34 x 36,38 m). Close to the villa an annex intended for agricultural purposes was excavated in the 1930’s. Both in its architectural characteristics and the way the building developed in time the portico-villa of Kerkrade-Kaalheide closely resembled the villa of Kerkrade-Holzkuil that was excavated mainly in 2002.

The portico of fluted Corinthian columns, of which one fragment was preserved for some time, anticipated a two-storey volume that accommodated three units used for different purposes. In the center of the villa PANSA BV distinguished a suite of rooms intended for representation. It consisted of a large reception room and a dining room. The latter was anticipated by an antechamber. The reception room that was accessible directly from the portico could also be reached from this antechamber. On the left hand side of the central suite a unit of heated rooms formed the family’s private quarters. Since this side of the villa is partially overbuilt by modern structures, PANSA BV had to reconstruct the plan of the major living room that was located on the far left side. Finally, on the right hand side a barn was distinguished. Here, agricultural equipment and carriages may have been stored. Built next to the barn a suite of two rooms separated from each other by a narrow corridor has been identified.

Probably not long after its completion the villa was extended with an additional storage built flat against its back wall. This addition was given the depth of the already existing portico, providing the villa in its second building phase with a perfectly symmetrical section. Being in this stage of development the villa burned down and collapsed.

After the excavations had been completed the plan of the Roman villa of Kerkrade-Kaalheide was visualized by means of modern wall structures of restricted height. The gap in the wall represents an original opening between rooms 10 and 8 that was located beneath floor level. It served the circulation of hot air (hypocaust system). The semi-circular wall section as seen from room 10 doesn’t correspond to the archaeological evidence. It was introduced in 1951 as a retaining wall.
Photograph: Diane Habets, city of Kerkrade

When rebuilding the villa two corner pavilions were added. These will have been accessible from the portico. The pavilions broadened and monumentalized the facade of the villa that at least from now on was clearly intended also to show-off.

Traditionally, the corner pavilions of Roman villas in the present Netherlands are reconstructed in two storeys. Since the first steps of a staircase were generally made of stone to preserve the wooden stringboards from rotting corner pavilions built in two storeys would have been accompanied by a substructure to hold these stone steps. On the detailed excavation drawings that were made in 1950, however, no traces of such substructures were indicated. Access to the pavilions’ hypothetical upper storey through the core building must be considered highly implausible. Furthermore, given the Dutch weather conditions a reconstruction featuring two-storey pavilions would have faced technical complications, since their front-gabled roof would have implicated the presence of a valley gutter between the pavilions and the core building. PANSA BV designed a solution that fully recognizes the archaeological evidence as well as the fundamentals of architectural detailing. Simultaneously, the reconstruction corresponds to what is being indicated by reference material from other sites.

The reconstruction of the villa of Kerkrade-Kaalheide was commissioned by the city of Kerkrade. PANSA BV supervised the creation of a scale model (1 : 200) of the villa in its initial layout. This model is on display in the lobby of Kerkrade’s city hall along with some of the small finds.

Click on the thumbnails for an enlarged view

Foundations detail Working on the villa of Kerkrade-Kaalheide Villa of Kerkrade-Kaalheide