Montpellier was created in 985, when the feudal lord Guilhem was granted agricultural land. His dynasty made it prosper until the 13th century. It then became a major university city, especially thanks to its medical school. Students came from afar to listen to renowned teachers, in a city open to the influences of Arab and Jewish scholars.
Economic activity was also brisk, with goods passing through the city's port, Lattes, which traded with the Middle East and had several trading posts there.
Montpellier's last native Lord was... a Lady: Marie. Through her marriage with Peter II of Aragon in 1204, Montpellier became part of the Kingdom of Spain for about 150 years.
In the 16th century, the French Wars of Religion shook up the city as they did the rest of the country. Montpellier, a mostly Protestant city, was invaded by Louis XIII’s troops… who built an imposing fortress to keep the inhabitants in line. We can still see traces of it today: the citadel of the current Lycée Joffre.
In the 17th century, Montpellier became the capital of Bas-Languedoc. Headquarters of the regional administration and various institutions (revenue court, royal academy of sciences), the city again experienced a period of splendor and saw the construction of many private mansions.
The 19th century was dominated by grape monoculture and high-yield production of wine. Its economic benefits enabled large-scale urban construction: the courthouse, the Sainte-Anne and Saint-Roch churches, the Théâtre de la Comédie...
But the phylloxera epidemic and overproduction of wine put an end to this expansion.
The 1907 revolt of winegrowers brought together half a million demonstrators in Montpellier but led nowhere.
The 1960s were marked by the massive arrival of populations repatriated from North Africa (the “Pieds Noirs” and the “Harkis”), who found refuge in Montpellier.
From the 1980s, Montpellier underwent marked growth, starting with the Antigone district. The late 1990s saw the construction of the Port Marianne area, which became home to new universities, and of the new City Hall designed by Jean Nouvel. More recently, the leisure and shopping complex “Odysseum” has been developed. All this urban development demonstrates the desire to transform Montpellier, which in 30 years has climbed from the 25th to the 8th largest French city.
Today, Montpellier’s universities attract more than 60,000 students from all over France and from every country, helping to make it a young and dynamic city. Home to many theater, music, and dance festivals, it is also a cultural capital.
Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and hot summers. 300 sunny days per year make for a blue sky… blue like the sea that reflects it!
The Cévennes Mountains, to the north of Montpellier, are grandiose. They are still wild and isolated, with incredible vegetation made up of holm oak, chestnut trees, and pine trees. Boars roam wild, and old dry-stone walls have shaped the landscapes over the centuries.
In the South, the Mediterranean Sea. No matter how many times we say it, its intense blue is extraordinary. And it’s so nice to swim in 22-degree water in the early morning or the evening—or even at night—when the beaches are still empty…
To the East, the Camargue. Another landscape formed by plains, canals, wild horses, free-roaming bulls, and pink flamingos. This region also has its own thriving cultural traditions.
And, everywhere, the garrigue and the song of the cicadas and the vineyards that produce the Languedoc-Roussillon wine, some of which is not bad at all… as you’ll see!
The circulade form and narrow Medieval streets of Languedoc villages embody all the charm of villages in southern France. Nothing is more enjoyable than to pass one’s time at the outdoor cafés, admire the old stone houses, and participate in the many local festivals in the summer.
Languedoc-Roussillon is a long way from Paris… in every sense of the word! The history of this region is based upon its original identity, quite distinct from that of the capital. The region was influenced by its early trade with the Orient, and it was part of Spanish Aragon for 150 years. That’s why Occitan is still spoken today. The Cathar “heresy” and Protestantism were also religious signs of opposition to the royal power. More recently, the history of the Cévennes and the Larzac region remains part of the tradition of this remembrance of revolts. These are some of the historical topics we can explore through the traces that remain in the region…
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