|The Location of the Region of Languedoc-Roussillon
The region of Languedoc-Roussillon encompasses the southern French départements of Aude, Gard, Hérault, Lozère and Pyrénées-Orientales. The region is roughly the same as the former province of Languedoc, plus the former province of Roussillon [which is now roughly the département of Pyrénées-Orientales]. Montpellier is the region’s capital. The region is bounded by the region of Auvergne, to the north,Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, to the east, the Mediterran to the southeast, Spain to the south, and the region of Midi-Pyrénées to the west.
The Massif Central marks the northwestern borders of the départements of Gard, Hérault, and Aude. It also extends into the département of Lozère. The plain of Languedoc faces the Mediterranean. The plain of Roussillon is to the southwest. It is separated from the plain of Languedoc by the Corbières mountains. The Pyrénées mountains are to the south. A Mediterranean climate prevails along the coast and a mountain climate is found in Lozère and the Pyrénées.
Languedoc was an old province of France. Its name was derived from the name of the traditional language of southern France, Occitan. Specifically, the name is derived from the phrase ‘langue d’oc’, where the word ‘oc’ means ‘yes’, [in contrast to ‘oïl’, in old French or ‘oui’, in modern French]. From the 13th century the name applied to the entire area in which the Languedoc, or Occitan, language was spoken. It came to apply specifically to the territory of the feudal county of Toulouse. The Languedoc area is still a center of a distinctive civilization in the south of France.
The boundaries of the old province of Languedoc were in a constant state of flux. Generally, they encompassed the southwestern part of France that lies south of the Dardogne River and north of Gascony, the eastern Pyrénées and the Mediterranean lowlands of France. The province stretched as far to the east as the Rhône River, a distance of approximately 125 miles. The eastern boundary then ran north, along the river, to the junction of the Isère River, nearly to the city of Lyon. Languedoc’s capital was Toulouse.
The Cévennes Mountains cover much of the old province. They reach their highest elevations in the province’s northeast. The southern part, of the old province, is a low coastal plain that extends along the Mediterranean Sea.
Malaria was prevalent in the extensive Camargue coastal marshes of the Rhône delta. The disease discouraged the development of the coast well into the 19th century. Consequently, the older villages tend to be inland. The traditional farmsteads, around Toulouse, have only one story and are built of rough brick.
The old province of Roussillon is also an historical and cultural region. It comprised what is now the southern French département of Pyrénées-Orientales. Roussillon encompassed an area made up of the eastern extremity of the French Pyrénées and the Mediterranean coastal lowlands adjoining them to the east. Its capital was Perpignan.
The area near Perpignan, which is known as Ruscino, was settled by a people with markedly Iberian affinities. During the period, from the 7th century BC to the latter part of the 3rd century BC, the area came under the control of Gallic peoples. In the 2nd century BC, Ruscino was conquered by the Romans. The Visigoths conquered the area in AD 462 and the Arabs took control of it in about 720. In the 750s theCarolingian kings began to rule it.
In 865, Septimania, which was part of the future Languedoc to the north, and Frankish Catalonia, to the south, gave rise to hereditary countships in the area, most of which were held by relatives of the contemporary counts of Barcelona. The latter dynasty acquired direct rights to Roussillon in 1172, and Roussillon thus became part of Aragon, which the counts of Barcelona had also acquired.
There was a great flowering of monasticism in Roussillon from the 10th century on. This resulted in the area becoming rich in Romanesque architectural remains.
The house of Barcelona-Aragon granted privileges to the towns, and commerce benefited from the integration of Roussillon with neighboring Catalonia to the south. In the 13th century, Roussillon formed the core of the kingdom of Majorca, an amalgamation formed by James I of Aragon and Majorca. The house of Aragon continued to hold Roussillon until the 1640s, when, during the Thirty Years’ War, France occupied Spain’s lands north of the Pyrénées. The town of Perpignan fell to the French in 1642, and in 1659 Spain formally ceded the province to France by the Treaty of the Pyrénées.
Throughout Roussillon, Catalan is widely spoken. French, the official language, is spoken with a heavy Catalan accent. The population is concentrated in the irrigated plains. Roussillon is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Protestants in Perpignan tend to be immigrants, and many Jews, living in Roussillon, are repatriates from Algeria. There are numerous families of Catalan Gypsies.
The History of Languedoc-Roussillon
The western part of the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis is the territory that ultimately constituted Languedoc. This land strip, which connected Italy to Spain, was strongly influenced by Roman culture. Under Emperor Diocletian, the province was divided into Narbonensis Prima and Narbonensis Secunda. The former’s capital was at Narbonne, with the latter’s capital at Aix [now known as Aix-en-Provence]. Roman civilization brought economic prosperity and a wealth of monuments to the region. With the decline of the Roman Empire, in the 5th century, the region fell under the control of the Visigoths.
The area was partially conquered by the Franks in the 6th century. Septimania [so called because it comprised the seven cities of Agde, Beziers, Lodeve, Maguelonne, Nîmes, Toulouse and Uzes], the coastal strip, came under Arab rule in the early 8th century and was ravaged. 50 years later, Septimania was not conquered by the Carolingian Franks under Pepin the Short The Carolingians formed it into a march for the protection of Aquitaine.
Toulouse was united with the March in 924, the date marking the origin of the county of Toulouse. By 1050 the counts of Toulouse were suzerains not only of Toulousain and Septimania but also of Quercy, Rouergue, and Albi to the north, making the county one of the great fiefs of France. The power of the counts, over much of this territory, was largely nominal. Their power was limited by the independence of their vassals, by the large ecclesiastical estates, and by the self-government of the towns.
In the 11th century the county of Toulouse, under Count Alphonse Jourdain, absorbed the region of the Languedoc. As a direct consequence, the city of Toulouse grew in power and independence.
From the mid-12th century, the Albigenses, a religious sect that the Roman Catholic Church considered heretical, won wide support from the people and the nobles of Languedoc. Pope Innocent III preached a crusade against them, precipitating an invasion of Languedoc by a northern French army, lead by Simon IV de Montfort, in 1209. The crusade nearly destroyed the country of Toulouse, along with the civilization of southern France.
After Simon’s death, in 1218, the county of Toulouse passed to Count Raymond VII [count of Toulouse from 1222 to 1249]. Raymond built the University of Toulouse and encouraged the development of industrial cities.
In 1229, Louis IX acquired the eastern part of the Country of Toulouse from local monks. These were the country lands east of the city ofCarcassonne. He then built the fortified harbor town of Aigues-Mortes from which he set out on two Crusades.
Raymond VII’s daughter, and heiress, Jeanne married Alphonse of Poitiers, the brother of King Louis IX. In 1271, Alphonse and Jeanne died without heirs. Thus, the rest of Languedoc was added to the holdings of the French crown and the French province of Languedoc was formed.
During the Hundred Years’ War, 1337 to 1453, Languedoc was exposed to invasion from the west. It was also subjected to the rapacity of the French king’s own representatives. Their extortions provoked riots in the towns which were followed by the peasant rebellion of the Tuchins in1382-83.
From its inception, the province had institutions that insured its local autonomy. During the Hundred Years’ War, Languedoc’s estates, or assembly, gained prominence for their taxing power over the south of France. The estates continued to function until the French Revolution. The Toulouse Parliament, which was created in 1443, was a high court that was second only to that of Paris.
In the 16th century Languedoc became a Center of French Protestantism. In the early 18th century, the government attempted to impose Catholicism. This gave rise to the peasant insurrection of the Huguenot Carmisards [Fr. Dialect ‘camisa’ meaning shirt]. In 1702, they rebelled against King Louis XIV, demanding the restoration of the Edict of Nantes. They conducted guerrilla warfare, burned Catholic churches and killed the priests or forced them to flee.
Pope Clement XI issued a papal bull against the Camisards. The bull was followed by the razing of more than 450 villages, and the killing of their inhabitants, by the Catholics. The uprising lasted until 1710.
The People of Languedoc-Roussillon
The area covered by the Pyrénées Mountains is the home of a variety of peoples. They include the Andorrans, the Catalans, the Béarnais, and the Basques. Each group speaks its own dialect or language, and each desires to maintain and even augment its own autonomy. At the same time, these diverse groups manifest a general unity. Even though Andorra is an autonomous principality, there are still close ties to both Spain and France.
The best known peoples of the Pyrénées are the Basques. They speak a language that is non-Indo-European. They have a long tradition of fiercely defending their autonomy.
The Occitan Language, which is also called Languedoc or Provençal, is a Romance language spoken by about 1,500,000 people in the south of France. Although Occitan speakers use French as their official and cultural language, Occitan dialects are used for everyday purposes and show no signs of extinction. Occitan is spoken in the area once known as Occitania. This includes the present day regions of Limousin, Languedoc-Roussillan, the old province of Aquitaine, and the southern part of the French Alpes.
The name Languedoc comes from the old term langue d ‘oc. This term referred to a language that used ‘oc’, a derivative of the Latin word ‘hoc’ to mean “yes”. This usage was in contrast to the old French language, which was referred to as the langue d ‘oïl’, which used the old form ‘oïl’ instead of the modern ‘oui’ for “yes”. The name Languedoc refers to a linguistic and political-geographical region of France’s southern Massif Central.
The name Provençal originally referred to the Occitan dialects of the Provence region. It is also used also to refer to the standardized medieval literary language based on the Provence dialect.
Occitan literature is plentiful. This is because, in the 12th to 14th century, Provençal was a standard and literary language in southern France and in northern Spain and was widely used in poetry. The medieval troubadours used it as their primary language. The earliest written material in Occitan is a refrain attached to a Latin poem said to date from the 10th century.
Although the modern Occitan dialects are constantly exposed to French, they have barely changed from the Middle Ages. The major dialects are those of Auvergnat, Languedoc, Limousin and Provence. Gascon, a Romance dialect of southwestern France, is usually classified as a dialect of Occitan, although it is sometimes considered a distinct language because it differs a great deal from the other, more or less uniform, Occitan dialects. Occitan is closely related to Catalan, and, although strongly influenced in the recent past by French, its phonology and grammar are more closely related to Spanish than to French.
The langue d’oc has contributed about 500 words to modern French. Such words as ‘bague’, meaning ring, ‘cadeau’, meaning gift, and ‘velours’, meaning velvet, have come into the French language from the langue d’oc.
Catalan, the language of the Spanish northeastern coast, is widely spoken in Pyrénées-Orientales. It is a Romance language, thought by some philologists as merely a dialectal offshoot of Provençal and by others as a completely independent Hispanic language.
The French that is spoken in the Pyrénées-Orientales has a heavy Catalan accent.
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The Gastronomy of Languedoc-Roussillon
- The Cuisine
Regional cuisine relies heavily on olive oil and garlic. Pork fat is widely used in the preparation of Cévennes. The soups include the garlic based aigo bouillido and oulade, which is made with potatoes and seasoned with pickled pork and various herbs. Aligot is a puree. It is made with potatoes and cheese and is seasoned with garlic. A beef stew, called Ollada, or ouillade, is cooked in a heavy pot. Cargolada is a regional escargot plate.
- The Wine
The lowland, warm in winter and hot and dry in summer, produces vast quantities of inexpensive wine. Béziers is the Center for the wine trade in Hérault département.
- Côtes-du-Rhône and Tavel are among the quality wines produced in the département of Gard.
- The wine of Corbières is bottled for local consumption in the département of Pyrénées-Orientales. The aperitifs, such as Byrrh, Banyuls, and Rivesaltes, have a nationwide market.
- Fine muscatels result from the vineyards that are located on the Languedoc plains. A sweet wine, called Blistelle, is also produced there. Its fermentation is artificially stopped and new cultures are added before the wine is allowed to age.
- Other notable wines come from Banyuls-sur-Mer, Rivesaltes and Maury.
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The Economic Activity of Languedoc-Roussillon
The agriculture of the Hérault département is a monoculture based on wine. The irregation canals, that were recently built, have mainly fallen short of diversifying agriculture. The exception is locally grown vegetables and fruits. The Compagnie Nationale d’Aménagement de la Région du Bas-Rhône et du Languedoc (“National Company for the Development of the Region of the Lower Rhône and Languedoc”) has brought approximately 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) under irrigation in an effort to diversify agricultural output.
Sheep are raised in the north of Hérault. Some of Hérault’s ewes’ milk is sent to the cheese factories at Roquefort, in the neighbouring département of Aveyron.
Cultivation of vines, fruit, and vegetables in the plain of Pyrénées-Orientales has been pushed up into the mountain valleys; apricots, peaches, and cherries are specialties.
The Perpignan is an important center for trade in fruit, vegetables, and wine, and also has factories making clothing, processed food, and building materials.
Nîmes has long been known as a farm-trade and manufacturing center. Apart from textiles, its products include shoes, clothing, processed food, brandy, footwear, machinery, and chemicals. It is also an especially important market town for wine. The city is an important crossroads for road and rail transportation.
Narbonne is a wine-trade center for Aude wines. It is also a major road and rail junction and a manufacturing center. Its products include clothing, pottery and tile, machinery, and fertilizer. In 1959, a uranium processing plant was built just outside the town.
Today, Montpellier is a commercial and manufacturing center. Its industries include food processing, textiles, metallurgy, electronics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and textile weaving. The modern city is a tourist Center and the seat of the annual International Vine and Wine Fair.
Carcassonne engages in some clothing manufacturing. It is also a trade center for wine, grain and fruit that is produced in the region. Today, Carcassonne is a popular tourist attraction.
In Aigues-Mortes, fishing is a source of revenue, although the port long ago silted up. The principal industries are tourism and the extraction and processing of marsh salt.
Manufacturing is underdeveloped outside the lower Rhône. Plutonium is processed at Marcoule in Gard, while Ardoise in Gard is the site of the electrometallurgical center of Ugine-Kuhlmann. Tourism is being developed along the Mediterranean.
Minerals are scarce, with some sulfur mined at Malvési and iron ore at Leucate on the coast. Quillan, in the foothills of the southwest, has an important plastics industry.
In the areas around Nîmes and Alès industries such as steel, aluminum, textiles, and electrical equipment have been established. A former coal mining center, on the Gard, has been transformed into a tourist Center. The oldest of France’s nuclear power plants is situated at Marcoule. The irrigation projects, of the 1960s, transformed poor and infertile land into a rich agricultural region.
The Mediterranean littoral is being developed for tourism by the creation of beach resort towns. The main harbor at Sète has been transformed into one, of several, prominent seaside resorts.
The area’s traditional industry has been viticultural implements, but there are also important refineries and chemical plants.
The département of Lozère has little industry. Farming has been the principal economic activity, devoted almost entirely to sheep and cattle raising. This animal husbandry is difficult except in the valleys. Increasing tourism has not arrested the exodus of the rural populace.
In Canigou The high-grade iron ore is still worked. Light industries have been developed around Perpignan, which is also a tourist Cente
The seaside resorts of Languedoc-Roussillon have become popular and its winter sports are attracting large numbers of visitors. Summer music festivals, given by the cellist Pablo Casals, served to popularized Prades.
Region of Languedoc-Roussillon Département Info The Départements of Languedoc-Roussillon
In 1790, the département of Aude was formed from part of the old province of Languedoc. Carcassonne, the département’s capital, contains a picturesque citadel with its restored medieval fortifications and buildings. Carcassonne, Narbonne and Limoux, are the heads of arrondissements.On the east, the département boarders the Mediterranean, at the Gulf of Lions. To the south lies the département of Pyrénées-Orientales. To the west are the départements of Haute-Garonne and Ariège. To the north is the département of Tarn; the département of Hérault is to the northeast. Hérault’s westward reaches extend into the Garonne River basin. However, most of the département of Aude is drained by the Aude River basin.
The département of Gard is bounded by the Rhône River and the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur to the east. On the south, it runs along 10 miles of the Mediterranean coastline. The département’s northeastern boarder is the Ardèche River. The département of Lozère is to the east and the département of Hérault is to the south.
Near Remoulins, the famous Pont du Gard traverses the Gard River. This is an ancient Roman aqueduct that once brought water toNîmes from springs near the picturesque medieval town of Uzès. The Camargue, a coastal plain south of the city of Nîmes, includes part of the Rhône River delta.
The département of Hérault was created from the central part of the historic province of Languedoc. Its capital is the university city of Montpellier. The département has three arrondissements: Montpellier, Béziers, and Lodève.
To Hérault’s north is the département of Gard. To the west is the region of Midi-Pyrénées. To the south is the département of Aude and to the east is the Mediterranean Sea. The Hérault River, which gives the département its name, flows across it from north to south, reaching the Mediterranean Sea in a lowland of small coastal lagoons.
The département of Lozère is located in the southeastern part of the Massif Central on the Atlantic-Mediterranean watershed. All of Lozère’s rivers and streams, some 400, have their sources in the département itself. The Allier River, which originates in the Maure de la Gardille range, flows for 25 miles along Lozère’s northeastern border. The Tarn River begins south of Mount Lozère and the Lot River rises south of the Montagne du Goulet. It flows east through Mende. Several small rivers, including the Chassezac, one of the wildest torrents in France, flow into the Rhône Basin via the Ardèche River and the Gard River.
The capital of the département of Pyrénées-Orientales is Perpignan. The département was created from the historic province of Roussillon, the region of Cerdagne and fragments of Languedoc. Pyrénées-Orientales is bounded on the east by the Mediterranean Sea, on the south by Spain, and on the west by the small principality of Andorra and the region of Midi-Pyrénées. In the département’s west is the granite Carlit Peak that soars to the height of 9,583 feet. The peak is surrounded by glacial lakes and by other peaks that exceed 8,500 feet. The Carlit Massif feeds the Ariège, the Aude, and the Têt rivers.
The département is mountainous in the south, with the Roussillon alluvial plain in the center.
Languedoc-Roussillon, Town Information
The Towns of Languedoc-Roussillon
Aigues-Mortes is a town in the département of Gard located southwest of Nîmes. 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
Carcassonne is the capital of the département of Aude. It is located on both sides of the Aude River near the eastward bend of the river, southeast of Toulouse. 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.
The Cité’s 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’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.
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 Montpellierwas 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 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 Gard. 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 Bonapartists in1815. 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 inNîmes. 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.
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.