Originally called Ucetia, Uzès was a small Gallo-Roman oppidum. The town lies at the source of the Eure, from where a Romans aqueduct was built in the first century BC, to supply water to the local city of Nîmes. The most famous stretch of the aqueduct is the Pont du Gard, which carried fresh water over splendid arches across the River Gard (or Gardon) .
Like other cities in the Languedoc, Uzès was a haven for Jews in anti-Semitic western Christendom. The civilised and tolerant urban life of 5th-century Uzès contrasted with the rest of Europe. Jews were settled there as early as the 5th century. A Bishop of Uzès (Saint Ferréol) enjoyed their friendship. On this account complaint was made about him. As a result the bishop was obliged to change his attitude toward the Jews, compelling all those who would not become Christians to leave Uzès. By the 13th century, Uzès once again hosted a small community of Jewish scholars, as well as a community of Cathars.
Uzès was known for its serges. Like many cloth-manufacturing centers, the city and the surrounding countryside became strongly Protestant during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century. Many of the city's churches were destroyed and today only two remain.
The title of Duke of Uzès (duc d'Uzès), belonging to the family de Crussol d'Uzès, is the premier title in the peerage of France, ranking immediately after princes of the royal blood. The title of seigneur d'Uzès is attested in a charter of 1088. The town has expanded round the 11th century Tour Bermond, now located in the centre of the modern town. The family retain their stronghold there. After Languedoc was annexed by France under the treaty of Meaux in 1229, the dukes' military skill and loyalty to their new suzerain propelled them through the nobility. On the death of the last Duc de Montmorency (beheaded in Toulouse in 1632) the title of Premier Duke of France fell to Uzès. Over the centuries, twenty-one dukes have been wounded or killed as Hereditary Champions of France. It was part of the job of the incumbent Duke of Uzès to defend the honour of the Queen Mother. Before the French Revolution it was also his job to cry out on the death of the king, "Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi!" at his funeral.
A Capuchin chapel, built in 1635 to house the mortal remains of the Dukes of Uzès occupies the site of the 1st century temple to the first Roman Emperor, Octavian Augustus. The 11th century Romanesque Tour Fenestrelle ("Window Tower"), with its paired windows, is probably the most famous icon of the city. Private houses witness the wealth that the textile trade brought to the town in the 16th century.
From the 5th century until the French Revolution, Uzès was the seat (cathedra) of a bishop. The first Bishop of Uzès historically known is Constantius, present at the Council of Vaison in 442. Other notable bishops include St. Firminus (541-53) and St. Ferreol (553-81). St. Firminus is locally venerated as Saint Firmin who supposedly provides protection against plague. His relics rest in the Cathedral of Saint Théodorit. Saint Theodoritus, priest and alleged martyr, is the patron saint of the town. In time the bishopric became one of the most extensive of Languedoc. Bishops obtained the right to strike coinage and the right to dispense justice, both signs of their temporal power. In the 13th century, at the height of their power, the bishops were able to purchase a part of the seigneurie of Uzès. Guillaume de Grimoard du Roure (1310 1370) was consecrated as Bishop of Uzès before becoming Pope Urban V. Like other cloth manufacturing centers the town and the surrounding areas were strongly Protestant during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century. Even a bishop, Jean de Saint Gelais (1531-60) converted to Protestantism. The bishopric of Nîmes like that of Uzès was extinguished during the French Revolution. It was re-established as a separate diocese in 1821, and a Papal Brief of 27 April 1877, granted its bishops the right to add Uzès to their Episcopal style. The Cathedral had been destroyed during the Albigensian Crusade, later rebuilt, but destroyed again in the 16th century during the Wars of Religion. It was rebuilt again in the 17th century only to be stripped during the French Revolution.
Uzès was the birthplace of Firmin Abauzit
(1679-1767), scholar who worked on physics, theology and philosophy and
Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys D'Aigalliers, Count de Brueys, (1753-1798), the French commander in the Battle of the Nile.
Events and Activities:
- Truffle Faire, January
- Foire à l'Ail (Garlic fair), June