|The church and cemetery as they looked around 1900, source: Mémoire d'Andernos document.|
|The 1903 archaeological digs in progress, source: Mémoire d'Andernos document.|
|The scene 110 years later. Is that the same tree in the background?|
The subject was picked up by Madeleine Gauthier, a researcher at the Bordeaux branch of national scientific research centre CNRS. Visiting the site with colleagues as part of a nationwide inventory operation, she called into question the previous theories, pinpointing hard evidence to prove that the ruins were those of a typical 4th-century villa or palace (examples of which can also be seen in Saint-Émilion and Plassac): an inner three-bay nave flanked by an apse and buttress wall, the bases of columns where an inner archway may have stood, and a façade gallery with traces of the foundations of decorative features such as statues or columns.
These findings gave the site a second wind and Andernos began to widely promote its Gallo-Roman past, adding information panels, viewing platforms, floodlighting and wooden steps down into the “villa”, not to mention putting up signposts to the site throughout the town. When the new installations were completed in 2007, the story garnered national exposure on TV news programmes.
Peculiarly, the villa also gave rise to another theory which personally strikes me as surprising given that the actual purpose of this 4th-century building was only discovered 20 years ago: it may have been the residence of a wealthy man named Dernus, and the surrounding area thus became referred to as “En Dernus”… and subsequently "Andernos"! This theory is mentioned in official municipal literature and by other sources, although elsewhere it is claimed the name simply derives from "Andernus", meaning "alone".