Languedoc Home    Introduction     to See    to Do    Holidays     Langudoc Wine     Languedoc Life    Getting There    Property      History   Geography   Weather 
Cathars of the Languedoc    Cathar Castles    Languedoc Mysteries    Languedoc Books    Languedoc Photos    Articles    Emergencies    Languedoc Guides    More Information
Become lord of the Manor... Rent a Chateau in France!
 

Things to See in the Languedoc:   Historic Cities:   Béziers   ( The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about occitan. Besièrs,  The Name in Catalan Besiers)

The coat of arms of BeziersBéziers is a city (and commune and sous-préfecture) in the Hérault département, in the Languedoc, with a population of around 70,000. Inhabitants of Béziers are called Biterrois (m) or Biterroise (f).

The city is located on a bluff above the River Orb, near the coast some 10 km from the Mediterranean Sea. The A9 autoroute passes through it.

Béziers is an easy drive to the nearby mountains.  All around are valleys and streams, typical Languedoc villages, Romanesque churches and abandoned castles, forests and springs, caves and grottoes.

 

Béziers History

The site has been occupied since Neolithic times. The Celts founded or usurped a settlement here which became a Phoenician city. Béziers probably owes its name to the Celts. The name was adopted by the Romans when they arrived and rebuilt the city as a new colony for military veterans in 36 BC. They called it Colonia Julia Baeterrae Septimanorum,  Baeterrae for short, which helps explain why inhabitants are called Biterrois.

Béziers is sited on the original Herculean Way, later the Domitian Way (Via Domitia), a Roman road that linked Italy with Iberia. White wine from Béziers is known to have been exported to Rome; A dolium discovered in excavations near Rome is marked "I am a wine from Baeterrae and I am five years old". Another is marked "white wine of Baeterrae".

Stones from the Roman amphitheatre here were used to construct the city walls during the 3rd century. Béziers later became one of the seven cities of Septimania, along with Agde, Lodeve, Maguelonne, Nîmes, Toulouse and Uzès.  

During the 10th to the 12th centuries Béziers was the capital of a Viscounty of Béziers. The viscounts of Béziers ruled most of the coastal plain around the city, including also the city of Agde. They also controlled the major east-west route through Languedoc, broadly following the old Roman Via Domitia, with two strategically important bridges, one over the River Hérault at Saint-Thibéry and the other over the River Orb at Béziers.

After the death of Viscount William around 990, the viscounty passed to his daughter Garsendis and her husband, Count Raymond-Roger of Carcassonne (d. c1012). It was then ruled by their son Peter-Raymond (d. c1060) and his son Roger (d. 1067), both of whom were also Counts of Carcassonne. Roger died without heirs and Béziers passed to his sister Ermengard and her husband Raymond-Bertrand Trencavel. The House of Trencavel held Béziers, Carcassonne, Albi and the Razès as vassals of the Kings of Aragon.

Béziers became a stronghold of Cathar Belief in the Languedoc, which the Catholic Church condemned as a heresy. It was against the people here that Innocent III called a formal Crusade in 1208, a holy war known as the Cathar War or the Albigensian Crusade. Béziers was the first city to be sacked during the Crusade, on July 22, 1209. In the ensuing massacre no one was spared, including those who had taken refuge in the churches. It was here at Béziers that the Abbot Arnaud Amaury, the military commander famously gave the order "Kill them all, God will know His own". The town was pillaged, and burnt. According to contemporary sources everyone was killed, just as the abbot had commanded.

Click on the following link to find out more about the massacre of Béziers

Béziers was a centre of the revolt by the Duke of Montmorency en 1632, as a consequence of which the King suppressed the privileges of the province by the Edict of Béziers in October 1632. They were re-established in 1649.

Béziers served as a military base during wars into modern times, for example the wars against the Habsbourgs It was never seriously threatened except during the wars of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) when the British landed as Sète and advanced almost as far as Béziers.

The town prospered in the Eighteenth century mainly as a result of the wine making industry.

At the French Revolution Béziers aligned itself with the Federalists, but in 1851 it was one of the few cities to revolt against the coup d'État of the Prince-Regent Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. In the repression following the coup d'état, troops fired on and killed Republican protesters . Others were condemned to death or transported to Guyana, including a former mayor of Béziers. In the Place de la Révolution a plaque and a monument commemorates these events.

During the course of the Nineteenth century the population expanded from 15,000 to 50,000. Arenas were constructed and arterial roads built. A parc à l'anglaise (le Plateau des Poètes) was created and numerous châteaux were built by local vignerons in the area. Béziers saw its golden age at the beginning of the Twentieth century, though it was soon threatened by problems in the wine industry. It did not suffer too much as a result of phylloxéra as the disease arrived later than elsewhere in France after a remedy had been developed. In 1907 Béziers was the centre of a revolt by vignerons. The army was sent in to quell the revolt but the soldiers mutinied.

The early twentieth century was otherwise uneventful, though Béziers was bombed by the 15th USAAF on 5th July 1944.

The town declined after the second World War, a result of the fall in wine prices combined with the steady decline of traditional industries. By the Nineteen seventies the population had declined to 75,000. Today it is becoming something of a tourist centre. Today Béziers is still a principal centre of the Languedoc viticulture and wine making

 
Wine Growers Riot at Béziers Against Doctored Wine

 

 

Canal du Midi at Béziers

Béziers lies on the Canal du Midi, built by Pierre-Paul Riquet a notable Languedoc resident. The Canal is popular for boating holidays and through France's extensive canal network provides a way to get to the Languedoc from the Atlantic Ocean, Northern France and Mediterranean Sea.

The Canal du Midi spans the river River Orb as an aqueduct called the pont-canal ('canal bridge'). You will find a statue here to Pierre-Paul Riquet a local hero, who was born in the city.  He was almost wholly responsible for the construction of the The Canal du Midi - concept, design, engineering, building and financing, any one of which would have been a remarkable achievement in itself.

Béziers-Agde-Vias Airport, owned by the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry, one of many Languedoc airports, provides daily direct flights to Paris, Orly.

 

Béziers Travel Centre

 

Béziers car hire (ciry and airport) Next.

Google Map of Béziers (showing the airport) Next.

Béziers Hotels Next.

 

Béziers Attractions & Activities:

Sea jousting tournaments (Joutes Nautiques) from April to September. Click on the following link for more about these popular annual events Next.

Golf de Saint-Thomas Click here for more details of golf clubs in this area

A modern arena hosts bull-fights; as well as popular entertainers and orchestras. During the early part of August the Béziers Féria offers five days of festivity each summer centred on Bullfighting and Bullrunning. Next.

Attractions include a Fine Arts Museum and a Folklore Museum (Musée du Vieux Biterrois).  

Like many towns and cities in the Languedoc Béziers fields a rugby union team (AS Béziers). They were founded in 1911. They have won twelve French championships. The side was a major force in French rugby in the 1970s and 1980s. At the end of 2004-05 season they were relegated to Pro Division 2. They play at Stade de la Méditerranée (capacity 20,000). Club colours are blue and red.

 

Famous Bitterois

Béziers was the birthplace of Pierre Paul Riquet (1609 or 1604-1680), responsible for the construction of the The Canal du Midi. There is a statue of him in the town.

Jean Moulin (1899-1943), a hero of the French Resistance in the Second World War. Jean Moulin was arrested June 21, 1943. He was interrogated by Klaus Barbie, head of the Gestapo in Lyon. He did not reveal any information to his captors and eventually died under torture.

 

 

 

 

Béziers Markets

Flower Market (Allées Paul Riquet) - Friday from 6am to 7pm
Marché du Champ de Mars (Place du 14 juillet) - Friday from 7am to 1pm (all produce)
Marché Place David d'Angers - Friday from 7am to 1pm (food)
Marché de la Devèze - Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, from 7am to 1pm (all produce)
Marché au Bois (Place du 11 Novembre) - Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, from 7am to 1pm
Marché Emile Zola (place Emile Zola) - Tuesday from 7am to 1pm (food)
Marché de l'Iranget (Place de l'Iranget) - Wednesday from 7am to 1pm
Marché du Pourtour, Les Halles - Tuesday, Sunday from 7am to 1pm
Marché de la Place de La Madeleine - Sunday from 7am to 1pm (car boot sale)
Marché de la Place de la Madeleine - Saturday from 7am to 1pm ("Marché paysanne" - local produce)
Secondhand Market (Allées Paul Riquet) - Every 1st Sunday of the month

 

Buy at Art.com
Buy poster from Art.com
 
Buy at Art.com
Buy poster from Art.com

 

Ecclesiastical History of Béziers

Béziers has an ecclesiastical history typical of the area, artfully mixing myth with actual events. According to local tradition the first Bishop of Béziers was the Egyptian saint, Aphrodisius, who supposedly sheltered the Holy Family at Hermopolis. He is said to have accompanied Sergius Paulus to Gaul to found the Church of Narbonne, but died a martyr at Béziers. St. Aphrodisius supposedly arrived at Béziers mounted on a camel, hence the custom of leading a camel in the procession at Béziers on his feast day. The custom died out during the French Revolution.

The first known bishop is Paulinus mentioned in 418; St. Guiraud was Bishop of Béziers from 1121 to 1123; Saint Dominic refused the bishopric of Béziers in order to devote himself fully to supporting the extirpation of the Cathars.

Among the fifteen synods held at Béziers was that of 356 held by Saturninus of Arles, an Arian archbishop. This synod condemned St. Hilary. Later synods of Béziers in 1233, 1246 and 1255 condemned the Cathars.

A Papal Brief of 16 June 1877, authorised the bishops of Montpellier to call themselves bishops of Montpellier, Béziers, Agde, Lodève and Saint-Pons, acknowledging the different dioceses united in the present Diocese of Montpellier.

Churches in Béziers worth visiting include:
  St. Aphrodise's, named after the city's evangeliser
  St. Nazaire, a fortified church desecrating the site of the Temple of Augustus
  St. Jacques, the construction of which is credited to Charlemagne
  St. Mary Magdelene, the site of the apallling massacre by French Crusaders in 1209

It was in the church of St. Mary Magdelene that, on the 22nd of July 1209, Roman Catholic Crusaders under the command of a papal legate (the Cistercian abbot Arnaud Amaury) massacred the thousands of men, women and children that had sought refuge there.  You will find not the least hint of regret in this or any other church, nor even any mention of the atrocity, though Inquisitors are proudly remembered by inscriptions on a number of monuments.  Only a civil plaque opposite the cathedral commemorates the 'Day of Butchery' by the French Catholic forces.

A few parts of the Romanesque cathedral St-Nazaire survived the sacking in 1208 by Catholic Crusaders, and repairs started in 1215. The restoration, along with that of the rest of the city, continued until the 15th century.

 

To See Near to Béziers

The Oppidum at Enserune is an important archaeological site. Click on the following link for more about Languedoc oppida.

The Étang de Montady (right next to the Oppidum at Enserune), is a marsh drained in 1247. It is a unique field and irrigation system: plots radiate out from the centre. Channels drain the land into a collector. The water is carried away by an aqueduct that passes under the hill to the floor of the old Capestang lake, itself drained in the 19th century.

 

 

Back.   Back to last city  Up  a level to: Cities in the Languedoc Next Page: Next City  Forward.
Languedoc Home     About this Site     Site Map     Links     Contact Webmaster     Copyright and Legal     Search site for: 
The Languedoc: property,holidays,climate,naturist beaches,wildlife,wines,history,geography and Cathar castles: the Languedoc Home Page
 Level 1 -  Languedoc Home Page: Languedoc climate & weather, holidays & vacations, tourism & travel, naturism and naturist beaches,property & accomodation, Cathars & cathar castles, food & wine, history & geography, French sports & games, mountains & and lakes, and everyday life in the Languedoc-Roussillon in the South of France.
 Level 2 - Click here to go back to the main page on Things to See in the Languedoc-Roussillon.
 Level 3 - Click here to go back to the main page on Cities in the Languedoc-Roussillon.
 Level 4 - Languedoc website. You are at level 4.
 Level 5 - Languedoc links not available from here.

 Carcassonne.
City of
Béziers
1 of 2