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Béziers

 

Béziers is a French commune located in the Hérault department in the Occitanie region, crossed by the Orb and surrounded by vineyards and the nearby Mediterranean. It could be the oldest city in France, before Marseille: multiple archaeological excavations undertaken since the 1980s have revealed that Béziers was built by the Greeks in the 7th century BC.

With 77,177 inhabitants in 2017, Béziers is the second municipality in Hérault after Montpellier and fifth in Occitanie. Its urban area has 171,010 inhabitants, ranking 53rd nationally. Its inhabitants are called the Biterrois and Biterroises, from Baeterrae, the Latin name for the city.

The contemporary fame of Béziers is made through viticulture, its rugby union team or its feria, which takes place every summer around August 15.

Béziers is a member of the Union of French bullfighting towns, in particular as Arles, Bayonne, Dax or Mont-de-Marsan.

 

Description

Old bridge of Béziers
The Pont Vieux is a listed structure located in Béziers, in the Hérault department. Characteristic of Romanesque architecture (12th century), it allows the crossing of the Orb. It remained for a very long time the only crossing point of the Orb on the way from Provence to Toulouse. It has undergone changes at different times: fourteenth century, fifteenth century, sixteenth century.

In letters patent to the Consuls of Béziers, Charles VII and Louis XI spoke of a bridge "of great age, sumptuous and of great edifice".


Saint-Nazaire Cathedral in Béziers
Saint-Nazaire et Saint-Celse Cathedral is a Gothic-style church located in Béziers in the French department of Herault and the Occitanie region. The cathedral is built in the western part of the old medieval town, on a large promontory which dominates the Orb plain at the same level as the Lycée Henri-IV (Béziers) (1598); the whole being built on the buttresses of the old ramparts of the city of Hérault. The point of view allows to embrace the plain of Languedoc and its surrounding villages to the massifs of the Black Mountain, Caroux and the Pyrenees looming on the horizon. The cathedral is classified as a historical monument by the 1840 list.

Construction history
Built on the site of an ancient Roman temple dedicated to Augustus and his wife Livia
A writing mentions the existence of a building from the 7th century.
A Romanesque church existed on the site of the current cathedral. During the sack of Béziers, July 22, 1209, a fire caused the entire destruction of the building.
The reconstruction work on the cathedral began in the middle of the 13th century. The building is partly built on an old cemetery.
The cathedral is dedicated to Saints Nazaire and Celsus.

The exterior of the building
The cathedral is dominated by a square tower 48 meters high surmounted by a turret housing an iron bell tower with a late eighteenth century bell. The upper part (from the 15th century) is decorated with columns, each of the bases of which represents a human face. The bell tower contains a bumblebee (named after Marie) of 4 tons melted by François Granier, second bell in the region by its importance after the bumblebee of the cathedral of Montpellier.
Numerous and magnificent gargoyles, some requiring a renovation project, adorn the walls of this magnificent cathedral. Richly crafted fourteenth-century ironwork gates that protect the stained-glass windows of the choir.
The sacristy built under Guillaume de Montjoie, which adjoins the apse, lower than the latter, dates from the fifteenth century. It has a balustrade. The wrought iron gates date from the 13th century.
The west facade of the building dominates the Orb.
The facade is surmounted by two towers and a set of battlements. A round tower is set back, a real watchtower with battlements. The facade is adorned with a rose window 10 meters in diameter. Below is the entrance gate (which is no longer used today) surmounted by a machicolation. The sculptures on the facade have almost all been destroyed. Only two statues remain located on either side of the portal, representing the synagogue and the Church of Christ.

On the north facade of the transept, is the entrance door (created in the seventeenth century), surmounted by a wooden lintel which evokes the martyrdom of Saints Nazaire and Celsus.

The interior of the cathedral
The interior of the cathedral forms a Greek cross. The building measures:
50 meters long,
the nave 14 meters wide.
Width of the transept: 33 meters.
Maximum height of the vault of the nave: 32 meters.

Inside you can find:
Roman columns and capitals, vestiges of the Romanesque cathedral. Most of the columns date from the Gothic period. The double arches supporting the vault date from the fourteenth century.
the supports of the galleries, located in the nave, near the choir, have friezes with triglyphs and metopes. These friezes are imitations of degenerate Gallo-Roman style, dating from the Romanesque period (12th century).
the choir contains old stained glass windows from the Gothic age. It was extensively altered in the eighteenth century in the Baroque style with a red marble colonnade running along the wall of the apse and framing the statues of the four evangelists, a staff glory and a polychrome marble altar.

Above the stalls, there are 6 large paintings. Three of them are signed Thierry and represent scenes from the life of Moses; the other three are works by the Montpellier painter Raoux, and show scenes from the life of Constantine and his mother, Saint Helena.

 

the sacristy, built in 1443 by Bishop Guillaume de Montjoie, at the same time as the chapter house.
the walls are partly covered with old frescoes, restored in 1917. These frescoes were seriously damaged during the wars of religion, then coated with a whitewash that had to be removed later. They date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and adorn the walls of many chapels (the Chapel of the Holy Spirit and the Chapel of the Dead in particular).
the large rose window, with a diameter of ten meters.

The cloister
The cloister, unfinished, adjoins the cathedral to the south. The upper gallery was never built. The sculptures of the vaults date from the fourteenth century. The fountain adorning its center now occupies the Place de la Révolution. The cloister houses the remains of a lapidary collection, the most beautiful pieces of which have been transferred to the Musée du Biterrois. However, a bust of a Roman statue remains on the ground, and a few statues of sacred art are displayed on the walls. Sealed in these walls, one can particularly notice elements of medieval and modern epigraphy, and tombstones, as well as two fragments of late-antique sarcophagus typical of the Aquitaine workshops.

Below the cloister is the Bishop's Palace garden. From this garden, there is a panorama which allows you to embrace the Orb plain, the bridges (Pont-Vieux dating from the thirteenth century, Pont-Neuf, canal-bridge) and the Locks of Fonserannes.

On July 11, 1769, Barbe Marguerite d'Igny de Risaucourt, baroness of Guerpont and of Silmon, countess of Risaucourt, princess of the Holy Empire, widow of Antoine de Bastard-Saint-Denis de Guerpont, infantry captain, knight of The 80-year-old Order of Saint-Louis is buried in the cloister of the cathedral by Father Bellet, in the presence of Master Joseph Gallet, priest of Saint-Nazaire de Béziers, and Master Barthélémi Augier, prebendary priest.

The great organ
The great organ is installed on a platform, at the end of the nave, of which the case, Louis XIII style and work of Guillaume Martois, dates from the seventeenth century. The instrumental part dates partly from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Guillaume Poncher 1633, Jean de Joyeuse 1678 and Joseph Isnard 1785) and for another part from the nineteenth century (reconstruction in 1868 by Théodore Puget completely modifying the harmonization, i.e. that is, the general sound of the instrument, to make it conform to romantic taste). This instrument was restored in 1993.

The bells
The bell tower of Béziers cathedral has 6 bells. On the roof of the bell tower, a bell dated 1788 cast by Claude Brenel is placed in a wrought iron campanile. The other five bells are in flight, 4 of which are in retrograde flight with the arched cast iron yoke and one in free throw with the beam yoke, so it is the small Bernadette bell. The bells are arranged in a metal belfry inside the bell tower.