A quick visit to Perpignan!

Well pull this one out of the hat. Getting to my vault found couple photos of my business trip to Perpignan a while ago and why put together a post on it ,for the memories and hopefully another longer trip back. Perpignan is in the Pyrénées-Orientales dept 66 in the region of Occitanie now. Old Languedoc-Roussillon of which it is more in common. It is the former continental capital of the Kingdom of Majorca, the city was annexed by the Kingdom of France in 1659.

The how to get there story, briefly.

The city of Perpignan is 13 km from the Mediterranean Sea at Canet-en-Roussillon by expressway, 25 km from the Spanish border at Le Perthus and 850 km from Paris, 205 km from Toulouse, (admin capital) 450 km from Bordeaux and Lyon, 320 km from Marseille, 470 km from Nice, and 160 km from Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra. Perpignan is especially marked by the impressive Canigou peak or Pic del Canigó at 2,784 meters located not far from the Franco-Spanish border and visible from the city center. The Albères range, which culminates at 1,256 meters at the Pic du Néoulous, forms a barrier to the south and marks the limit with Spain, a country with which it communicates easily at the Col du Perthus pass, whose altitude does not exceed 300 meters, about 30 km from the city.

Perpignan has a train station serve by TGVs, night Intercity trains and TERs from the Occitanie region. The TGVs connect Perpignan daily to Paris Gare de Lyon, Toulouse and Barcelona; The Spanish AVEs complete this service by high-speed trains, connecting the city every day to Lyon, Marseille, Barcelona and Madrid. I have to say I came here briefly by TGV train from Gare de Lyon in Paris for a two day conference.

perpignan

The bus network of Perpignan Méditerranée Métropole is called Sankéo: the new network is organized around three structuring lines A ,B and C. The intermodal bus station of Perpignan constitutes the point of convergence of most of the lines of the departmental bus network such as the bus at 1 euro program in Occitanie. There is an airport Perpignan-Rivesaltes airport operates national and international flights, some of which are insured only during certain periods of the year mostly Summers.  The city is connected to Narbonne to the north and Barcelona to the south by the A9 highway/motorway which continues to Spain as the AP-7, which constitutes the backbone of the road network of the Mediterranean coast.

A bit of history I like brief because its long.

An Iberian people, the Sordes, would have occupied the Roussillon plain, around 500 BC but the Ruscino oppidum (current Château-Roussillon), located east of the city, was the seat of the Roman administration of the region. After the invasion by the Arabs, Pépin le Bref, then, later, Charlemagne, definitively reconquered the region around 811. It was then that the Carolingian era began and the construction of several villages on the Roussillon plain, notably Perpignan a few kms from Ruscino. The first mention of Perpignan appears in an act dated May 20, 927 by which a certain Aton sells, the alleux d’Anglars and Saleilles, with their Churches Saint-Jean and Saint-Etienne. Wadalde, bishop of Elne and brother of Count Gausbert d’Empúries and Roussillon: these alleux confronted on one side with Cabestany (villa of Cabestagnio) and, on the other, with Perpignan (villa Perpiniano).

It was in the Middle Ages, from the end of the 10C, that Perpignan experienced its development. This success was due to the choice of the then counts of Roussillon (Guislabert I or his son Gausfred II) to make Perpignan their capital, which would later gain in importance, until it attracted the bishop, normally living in Elne. The castle was built there, a church consecrated in 1025, and a hospital, all placed under the patronage of Saint John. Nowadays, the church is called Saint-Jean-le-Vieux, it is next to the cathedral. The hospital has changed location: it is currently north of the city or Haut-Vernet, but regains its original name of Saint John Hospital. As for the castle, there are only a few buried rooms currently located under Cours Maintenon; at that time, the city did not have ramparts. In 1172, Count Girard II of Roussillon bequeathed his county to the Count of Barcelona – King Alfonso II of Aragon so that he did not fall into the hands of his half-brothers whom the popes Adrien IV and Alexander III had dismissed of the succession by declaring them adulterous. King Jacques Ier of Aragon, known as the Conqueror, made conquests towards the East of the kingdom of Aragon, thus propelling Perpignan at its peak during 68 years or about from 1276 to 1344.

In 1344, Perpignan lost its status as capital by the reintegration of the kingdom of Majorca in the crown of Aragon. Later, in 1493, king Charles VIII restored Roussillon and Cerdanya to the Catholic Kings of Spain, who had just founded the unity of Spain, by the marriage between Castile and Aragon. Perpignan was taken by the armies of king Louis XIII in 1642, it is annexed with the rest of Roussillon such as the historic provinces or villages of Roussillon, Conflent, Vallespir, Capcir, Cerdagne ,Haute-Cerdagne, (the other part , Basse-Cerdagne being in Catalonia, Spain) and that, Fenouillèdes from Occitanie into the kingdom of France by the treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659 (Spain and France even today current limits of the two countries). On April 10, 1660, Louis XIV entered Perpignan.

The gigantic works of Vauban were to make Perpignan a city now impregnable and, however, there is almost nothing left of its work because the town at the time decided to demolish them at the beginning of the 20C in order to ventilate the central district and to be able to extend the city on the plain of Roussillon. (another ecological disaster). Today, only the Castillet, the palace of the kings of Majorca, barracks, undergrounds and part of the spared walls remain, which bear witness to the era of the greatness of Perpignan and its military installations.

Some of the things to see here me think are:

The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Mediterranean Gothic style, its construction was started in 1324 by the second king of Majorca, Sanche, and it was consecrated only in 1509. The Saint-Jacques Church, dating from the 13C is the seat of the brotherhood of Sanch.. The Saint-Matthieu Church, this church preserves with fervor and devotion, the Holy Thorns of the Crown of Christ acquired by king Louis IX, the good King Saint Louis. A chapel is specially dedicated to the protection and veneration of the Holy Thorns, handed over by King Philip III the Bold to his death in 1285, at the palace of the kings of Majorca, near the Church of Saint Matthew the Old. Conservation and veneration are ensured by the brotherhood of Saintes Épines.(Holy thorns). The Haras military academy, on the initiative of the future Marshal de Mailly, acting for the king, was created to train young nobles in the service of the king in 1751. The tower of Château-Roussillon, built around the 13C. The Palace of the Kings of Majorca, a 14C fortress-palace, surrounded by gardens which overlook the city and the Roussillon plain.

And the tourist spot I was able to see was the Le Castillet, and Porte Notre-Dame gate, the old entrance to the ramparts ,now destroyed, was an old prison, and today there is a small Catalan museum of popular arts and traditions or Casa Pairal. It offers a permanent exhibition on major events and personalities that have marked the history of the city. Its collections are made up of objects linked to the popular arts and traditions of the Pyrénées-Orientales department. The fortification is considered an archaeological monument of the greatest importance for the history of the city, and constitutes a unique type of military architecture in its kind. It is more decorative with its crowning of battlements, consoles and turrets in Moorish style. Le Grand Castillet was built around 1368. The Grand Castillet is 31 meters long and the Petit Castillet eight meters. The height of the parapets of the aliening is 20 meters above the ground and that of the top of the turret is 29 meters. The thickness of the walls is 3.50 meters at the base, about 3 meters on the second floor and 2 meters on the third. A spiral staircase with a diameter of about 3 meters serves the Grand Castillet. A second spiral staircase was made in the thickness of the wall between the Grand and the Petit Castillet. They both allow access to the terrace. A nice place and full of history I like.

perpignan

Further things to see if time allows it are :The 14C and 17C City/ Town Hall. The Loge de Mer, former commercial and maritime jurisdiction 15C both forrm a remarkable ensemble of medieval times. The Arcades Aqueduct 12C- to 14C. The old fortifications of Perpignan. The Palais des Corts, built at the beginning of the 16C, now houses the headquarters of the Red Cross in the Pyrenées-Orientales. There is a market every day at Place Cassanyes , the biggest market in the city offers a wide choice of market garden produce, clothes and flea market. Also,Les Halles Vauban; covered market and food court offering a wide choice of food to eat in or take away. Perpignan is a flower town, and the city counts 29 garden/parks all over.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and me too are

The city of Perpignan on Casa Pairal museum and Castillet in French: City of Perpignan on Casa Pairal museum and Castillet

The tourist office of Perpignan in English: Tourist office of Perpignan

The tourist office of the region of Occitanie on Perpignan in English: Tourist office of Occitanie region on Perpignan

There you go another dandy trip in my belle France! And now posted for my history and hoping you can make use of it as well.  Perpignan is pending a wider visit and in the meantime I will have my Castillet!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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