Aigues-Mortes is a
town in the département of
Gard located southwest of
It is on the Canal du Rhône à Sète and has its own 3.5-mile canal that joins it with the Gulf of Lion.
Its name comes from the Latin phrase ‘aquae mortuae’ which means "dead waters".
The phrase refers to the surrounding saline delta marshland adjacent to the town.
The town was built by
Louis IX as the embarkation port for his seventh crusade, in 1248, and his eighth crusade, in 1270.
The town was built as a medieval fortress, being enclosed by rectangled, indented battlements that were constructed with thick stone walls as high as 25 to 30 feet.
The walls were built with intermittent towers.
Carcassonne is the capital of the département of
It is located on both sides of the Aude River near the eastward bend of the river, southeast of
It also has access to the Canal du Midi.
Carcassonne is connected to the city of
Narbonne, and to the Mediterranean Sea, by the 7mile long Canal de la Robine.
There are two parts to Carcassonne.
They are the Ville Basse and the Cité.
The Ville Basse is located on the left bank.
It contains most of Carcassonne’s business activity and two 13th century churches: The Cathedral of Saint Michael and the Church of Saint Vincent.
The second part of the town is the Cité.
It is the medieval 5th century walled city built by Euric I, king of the Visigoths, at a Roman site.
It is located atop a hill on the right bank.
This site was occupied, as early as the 5th century BC, by the Iberians.
The 11th to 14th century Romanesque and Gothic Church of Saint Nazaire, that was built by the viscounts of Carcassonne and Beziers, and the 12th century château Comtal, are located within the Cité’s ramparts. Its fortifications are among Europe’s finest medieval remains.
In 508, the Frankish king,
Clovis I, failed to take the Cite.
However, both the Muslims, in 728, and the Caroligion king,
Pépin the Short, in 752, did manage to take it.
In the 13th century, as a consequence of the wars against the Albigensians, a religious sect, the town’s inhabitants were massacred by the Anglo-Norman Simon IV de Montfort.
In 1247, the possessions of the viscounts of Carcassonne were confiscated by the French crown.
Starting in 1247, the Ville Basse’s Cathedral of Saint Michael’s Romanesque transept and choir were replaced by Gothic structures.
The Romanesque nave remains.
In the 14th to the 16th centuries the stained glass windowns were installed.
outer ramparts, which are turreted, towered, and crenellated, were built during the reign of
Louis IX. His son,
Philip III, continued the work. He also added the beautiful gate, called the Porte Narbonnaise, to the inner walls.
The Porte is the only entry into the Cité by road.
It is guarded by two towers, with projecting beaks, and a double barbican that forced assailants to expose an undefended flank.
In 1659 the old province of Roussillon was annexed by France.
Carcassonne ceased to be a frontier fortress and was left to decay.
In 1844 the architect and medievalist Viollet-le-Duc began reconstruction of Saint Michael’s cathedral and the Cité’s ramparts. This work continued until the 1960s.
The town of Mende is the capital of the département of
It is located on the Lot River and the Massif Central, south-southeast of
Clermont-Ferrand at an altitude of 2425 feet above sea level.
The town is located about 17 miles from the Gorges of Tarn.
It is well placed to profit from the lucrative tourist trade.
Winter sports facilities have been developed in the surrounding mountains.
The town's 14th century cathedral was restored in the 17th century.
A narrow 14th century bridge over the Lot still stands.
The town has been a bishopric since the 10th century.
In 1579-80, the town was sacked by the Huguenots and was rebuilt early in the 17th century.
is the capital of the département of
Hérault and of the
It is situated in a fertile plain about 7 miles from the Mediterranean coast.
Montpellier was founded in the 8th century.
In the 10th century, Montpellier was a trading center for imported spices.
In 1141, it aquired a city charter.
During the rule of
Louis XIV, 1643 to 1715, Montpellier was made the administrative capital of the Languedoc region.
Montpellier’s school of law began in 1160.
During the 12th century its medical school became important.
In 1220, the
University of Montpellier was founded and in 1221 its faculty of medicine was founded.
During the French Revolution the university was suppressed.
After 1799, the institution was gradually reestablished.
In 1970, it was reorganized into three universities: Montpellier I, II, and III.
Montpellier was once a medieval walled city.
Like most older European cities, it grew up around its old quarters. Today, the city is contained within boulevards that were built upon the site of the city’s former walls.
The city is famous for the terraced 17th and 18th century Promenade du Peyrou. From the Promenade, one has a magnificent view of the Mediterranean and of the city's elegant mansions.
In the late 16th century, 1593,
Henry IV founded the Botanical Gardens, which is France’s oldest.
The city’s Fabre Museum and its Atger Museum contain one of the richest French collections of paintings in existence.
The 14th century Gothic cathedral has been heavily restored.
Narbonne is located in the
It lies on a vine-growing plain, about 8 miles from the Mediterranean, east of
Carcassonne and near the Gulf of Lion.
Narbonne was the site of Narbo Martius (Narbo), the first Roman settlement beyond the Alpes in Gaul.
The settlement was founded in 118 BC.
The town derived its Frankish name from the Roman ‘Narbo’.
The town was a major Mediterranean fishing port until the early 14th century, when its harbor silted up.
In 413, Narbonne was seized by the Visigoths, who later made it their capital. In 719 the Saracens captured the town and occupied it until 759.
During the Middle Ages, the southern part of the town was ruled by the counts of Toulouse; the northern part was under episcopal administration.
In 1507, Narbonne was united to the French crown.
The Cathedral of Saint-Just was begun in 1272, but was never completed.
The choir, and two square towers, were the only parts of the church to be finished.
Saint-Just was built in the style of the cathedrals of northern France. Its choir, which is of exceptional height, has pleasingly harmonious proportions.
The mainly 12th century Basilica of Saint-Paul-Serge is an interesting example of southern French early Gothic architecture.
The city contains Roman ruins.
The three square towers of the fortified Palais des Archevêques, date from the 13th and 14th centuries.
The Gothic-style town hall was added to the palace only in the 19th century.
The building now houses two museums that contain collections of paintings, ceramics, and Roman artifacts.
The Canal de la Robine, a branch of the Canal du Midi, runs through the city.
The Canal separates the northern part of the town, which is historically known as the Cité, from the Bourg to the south.
The old town, now surrounded by boulevards, has picturesque, narrow, winding streets.
Nîmes is the capital of the département of
It is located south-southwest of
Lyon, at the foot of some barren hills called the Monts Garrigues to the north and west of the city. It is stands upon a vine-planted plain, in the Cévennes Region, that extends to the south and east.
Nîmes was named after Nemausus, the genie of a sacred fountain. In 121 BC Nîmes, the capital of a Gaulish tribe, was annexed to Rome.
The emperor Augustus founded a new city there, giving it privileges that allowed it to rapidly prosper.
During its Roman period, the town became one of the richest in Gaul.
in the 5th century, Nîmes was plundered by the Germanic Vandals. Later, it was occupied by the Saracens [Arabs], who were driven out in 737. The town passed to the counts of Toulouse in the 10th century.
In 1229 it became a possession of the French crown.
During the Reformation,
Nîmes had become largely Protestant.
In 1598, the
Edict of Nantes conferred upon French Protestants a certain amount of religious freedom.
After the Edict was revoked, in 1685, the city suffered from persecution.
Nîmes was damaged during the fighting between royalists and
Subsequently, with the coming of the railways in the later 19th century, Nîmes became prosperous.
Nîmes is known for its numerous Roman remains, most of which are in an excellent state of preservation.
Its vast amphitheatre was probably built in the 1st century AD.
It has an elliptical configuration measuring 440 by 330 feet and 69 feet high and built of large stones from a nearby quarry, put together without mortar.
It probably sat 24,000 spectators.
Its exterior has a double row of 60 arches surmounted by an attic.
It was originally constructed for gladiatorial shows, chariot races, and naval spectacles.
In the 5th century, the amphitheatre was used as a fortress by the Visigoths. In the Middle Ages, houses, and even a church, were built inside it.
In 1809 it was cleared of buildings and is now used for bloodless bullfights.
It is one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in existence.
The famous Maison Carée was
built in a Greek style during the 1st century AD as a temple.
It is a rectangular structure measuring 82 feet long by 40 feet wide.
It now houses a museum of Roman sculpture.
It was originally dedicated to Gaius and Lucius Caesar, the adopted sons of the first Roman emperor Augustus.
It is one of the most beautiful monuments built by the Romans in Gaul, and certainly the best preserved.
Not unlike the amphitheatre, the building has been used, over the years, as a stable, a church, a town hall and a stable.
It now houses a collection of Roman sculptures.
The Tour Magne is a tower which, in all probably, was built in the 1st century BC.
It is perched atop a hill, just outside the city, and is the town’s oldest Roman building.
It is 92 ft high, but probably originally higher.
Its original function is not known, but it was incorporated into the Roman wall in 16 BC.
Not far from the Tour Magne is a reservoir that was the source for the water carried by the great Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct.
Its water was distributed throughout the town. Located on the edge of the city is Jardin de la Fontaine, which was designed in 1745.
The fountain, and the canals that flow through it, are partly Roman.
The Archeological Museum, which is housed in a former Jesuit college, has a fine collection of Roman objects, as well as some Iron Age artifacts.
The llth century Cathedral of Saint Castor and the museums of archaeology, fine art and local history are worth a visit.
Subsequent to 1960, the city's population grew considerably.
The growth was the result of both rural immigration and the repatriation of French settlers from North Africa following the Algerian war.
The traditional manufacture of textiles and clothing still flourishes.
Denim, a heavy, coarse cotton cloth with a diagonal weave was first made in
It is so named because it comes from Nîmes [de Nîmes was contracted to denim].
Also, the word ‘jeans’ is an Anglicization of the French word for Genoa, Italy.
The American jeans, originally manufactured in California during the 1840s by a Bavarian immigrant named Levi Strauss, actually have a French back heritage.
is the capital of the département of
It is located on the Têt River, 8 mi west of the Mediterranean Sea and 19 mi north of the Spanish region of Catalonia.
Catalan culture is dominant in both the language and the cuisine.
Formerly a stronghold town, and Perpignan was once the capital of the old province of Roussillon.
Today, it is a flourishing market Center for the wines, fruit, and vegetables of the rich plain in which it is located.
Perpignan was a stronghold town during the middle ages.
Toward the end of the 19th century the town walls were dismantled.
However, the Castillet, a picturesque 14th and 15th century crenellated fort that defended the principal gate, still stands.
Today, it is a museum.
The ancient Loge de Mer, which housed the maritime tribunal, is located nearby.
The 14th and 15th century Gothic Cathedral of Saint-Jean and the castle of the kings of Mallorca are not far away.
In the southern part of the town is the partially restored medieval palace of the kings of Majorca.
The palace is surrounded by the bastions of the great 17th and 18th century citadel.
The Rigaud Museum contains a collection of paintings by Catalan primitive artists and by the Perpignan native, Hyacinthe Rigaud.
Perpignan had been the capital of the counts of Roussillon. In 1172 it became the possession of James I of Aragon.
When he died, his realm was divided between his sons.
His younger son James got Roussillon and Majorca.
He was the first of three hereditary kings of Majorca who made the city their capital from 1276 to 1344.
During the struggle between France and Spain, for the province of Roussillon, Perpignan was heavily fortified.
In 1659 Perpignan became French as the result of the Treaty of the Pyrénées.
During and after the Spanish Civil War of 1936 it received Spanish Republican refugees.
Subsequent to Algerian independence, in 1960, it became a refuse for French settlers from North Africa.
In 1971, the
University of Perpignan was established.