Six Must-See Cathedrals in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region
The Cathedrals of Languedoc
At the heart of all of France's cities is their Cathedrals. The Languedoc-Roussillon region is no exception. The things they have in common are they are all Roman Catholic, all dedicated to saints, all were founded in the middle ages, all were re-built or extended over the remaining centuries, most were built on sites previously occupied by historic cathedrals or churches, and finally most are in the Gothic style.
Listed below are the six main cathedrals in the Languedoc region. All are worth paying a visit if you are in the region.
- Montpellier – Saint Pierre (Saint Peter)
- Carcassonne – Saint Michel (Saint Michael)
- Béziers - Saint Nazaire and Saint Celse
- Nîmes – Notre Dame (Virgin Mary) and Saint Castor
- Narbonne – Saint Just and Saint Pasteur
- Perpignan – Saint Jean Baptiste (John the Baptist)
Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier
The fortress-like Roman Catholic cathedral, is dedicated to Saint Peter. The Largest of the Languedoc Cathedrals. It was formerly commissioned as a church, which was attached to the monastery of Saint-Benoît in 1364, by Pope Urban V, who had studied at Montpellier University and wanted to honour the city. It was given cathedral status in 1536, when the diocese of Maguelone was transferred to Montpellier, under the rule of the French King Francois I.
The original building unfortunately collapsed under the power of cannon fire, during a religious war, in 1567. It was later re-built over seventy years back in the seventh century. More work was carried out in nineteenth century, by Henri Révoil.
Cathédrale Saint-Michel de Carcassonne
The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Carcassonne is listed as one of the national monuments of France. The first religious building on the site was built in the thirteenth-century primarily as a parish church. In the fourteenth century it was re-constructed as a gothic style fortified church, after being damaged in a war.
The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Michael. In the Book of Revelation, within the New Testament, it is said that Saint Michael led God's armies on a campaign to defeat Satan's forces.
Cathédrale Saint-Michel was finally elevated to cathedral status, in 1803, when the former Cathedral of Saint Nazarius and Celsus was downgraded to a Basilica. There has been a church on the site of the Basilica since the 6th century, the time of the Visigoths. Work began on the Gothic Basilica in 1096 and continued until its completion in 1330.
Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire-et-Saint-Celse de Béziers
During the Albigensian Crusade, a massacre took place in the town of Béziers in 1209. Many of the town's people took shelter in the cathedral.This did not protect the town's folk, because the Crusaders saw the people as heretics. A complete blood bath followed, with the soldiers killing thousands and destroying the original Roman Catholic cathedral.
The current structure dates back to the thirteenth century, and was the Bishopric of Béziers, until the early nineteenth when it was merged into the Diocese of Montpellier.
The Cathedral of Béziers has one of the grandest views of all of the Languedoc Cathedrals. Perched on a rocky cliff, it overlooks the river orb, it's near the canal du midi aqueduct, surrounded by vineyards and has views of the Massif Central to the north. You must also pay a visit to the cathedral's cloisters.
Basilique-Cathédrale de Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Perpignan
When work began on the cathedral in 1324, the town was under the rule of King Sancho, from the Kingdom of Majorca. The Cathedral was built in the Catalan Gothic style, and completed in the 15th century. The frontal clock-tower, was added in the 18th Century.
John the Baptist is the Cathedral's patron saint, who was said to have foretold the coming of a messianic figure. It is claimed that Jesus was a follower of John, and was also baptized by him.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Castor de Nîmes
The Cathedral was believed to have been erected on the site of a former temple, dedicated to the first Roman Emperor Augustus, who ruled from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD. Work on the Roman Catholic Cathedral began in 1096 in the Gothic fashion. However like most cathedrals in the region it suffered terribly during a Religious war. The structure standing today, was mostly re-built in the 19th Century in the Romanesque-Byzantine style.
Nîmes's Cathedral is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and local saint Castor, the former bishop of Apt. Castor started his career not in the church, but as a lawyer living in Marseilles. He married a local wealthy widower, and they eventually both proceed into a religious life, with the wife entering a nunnery. He later founded the monastery of Manauque in Provence, and died of natural causes around 420 AD.
Cathédrale Saint-Just-et-Saint-Pasteur de Narbonne
Narbonne Cathedral is mostly renowned as the uncompleted Cathedral. Work had began in 1272 after construction was sanctioned by Pope Clement IV, and came to a halt after the completion of the choir section in 1332. The hiatus was caused partly by a downturn in Narbonne economy, and partly because the Cathedral boarded the city's defensive wall, and they would needed to be demolished to continue the work, making it a very costly venture. The Middle Ages city walls are no longer standing, leaving the Gothic Cathedral perched in the centre piece of Narbonne.
There has been a christian presence on the site of the Cathedral, since the time the Roman Empire had adopted Christianity as their dominant religion. Originally there was a basilica, followed by the first Carolingian cathedral which was erected in 890 by Archbishop Theodard. The restored steeple is still visible today from the cloister.
The Cathedral is dedicated to the children martyrs Justus and Pastor. Their flogging and beheading was approved by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, just outside the Spanish city of Alcalá de Henares, around 304AD. The sainted children had died for their faith were only thirteen and nine.