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Narbonne

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Aude
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Today

An enchanting world stretches out before your eyes upon your arrival to the historical heritage city of Narbonne.

Leaving the lock , the Canal passes beneath houses in city centre build on the Merchant bridge , unique bridge in France with houses build on it! This 9 arches bridge of Roman origin was then called the " Pont Vetus ". It was part of the Via Domitia, the antique road built to carry goods from Italy to Roman Spain . Eight of the nine arches were filled up and are now privately owned by the residents of the houses build on the bridge.

In the centre of town, the port is one of the most beautiful on French inland waterways and offers all the commoditys for a lengthy stay.
The " horreum" the ancient storehouse in the only remaining building from the Roman era in the city centre. The structure of the building with axially aligned galleries onto which a series of chambers open out is very interesting and illustrate the time when the town was the first Roman colony outside Italy. One should visit the following museums :
The Art and History Museum is located in the XIIth century old archbishop' s palace . One may admire the notable art collections assembled here from local excavations .
The Lapidaire Museum, the Horreum and Archeological Museum holds important collections of prehistoric, protohistiric and Gallo-Roman works of Art.
In the Domaine de l'Hospitalet there are 16 exihitions to visit , ( flora, wine and vine , harnessing and old motor cars , fauna etc?), art work-shop and seminars are at your disposal. Catering and lodging are possible on the premise.
The Saint Just and Saint Pasteur Cathedral both form a notable architectural whole of Gothic Art, unique in France. From the North tower there is a panoramic view of Narbonne.
The paleo-christian Basilique Saint Paul built on what was once a vast necropolis is a major feature of Narbonne's historical heritage. The romanesque church built in the XIIth century has XIVth century Gothic vaulted modifications, two bays added during the XIVth century and the Gothic chancel with its double triforium from the beginning of the XVIIIth century.

Markets :
Tuesday and friday mornings

To visit and discover :
- The archeological Museum.
- The Basilique Saint-Paul-Serge
- The Saint Just and Saint Pasteur Cathedrals
-The Domaine de l'Hospitalet
- The Lapidaire Museum,
-The Horreum Museum
-The old Archbishop palace

To see around Narbonne :
- The archeological site of Sallèles d'Aude
- The Abbey of Fontfroide
- Ginestas Museum
- Pouzols Minervois winery

Where to eat :
- The Bistro
- L'Alsace, 2 rue Pierre Sénard
- Aux trois Caves, 4 rue Benjamin Crémieux,
- L'Estagnol.

Narbone's past

It would seem that Narbonne existed near thousand years before the Christian era.

The classic art city, named Narbon by the Greeks was a Celtic city, situated in the heart of a bay, surrounded with water. The city of Capestang, named Caput Stagni, occupied the summit of this bay, the perimeter of which ended with the island of Clape. All this area, today prosperous, was then covered by waters. Six centuries before J.C, Hécatée, one of the most ancient historians, quotes Narbon as being the most important centre of the Mediterranean coast. It was then surrounded with high towers and massive bulwarks.

Four centuries before J.C, Pithéas gives it as one of the most populated and richest city, mainly from the activity of the port. Its inhabitants were laborious and civilized contrary to the barbaric tribes which populated the back country . Polybe, another historian, writes three centuries before J.C: " it was situated in the middle of lagoons having the aspect of a vast lake scattered with islands ".The river Atax, former name for the Aude, flowing down from the Pyrenees, poured under its walls and then clearing itself a passage through the lagoon threw itself into the open sea " .

It is by this river road that the merchants vessels penetrated on the continent and came to moor in the port of Narbon under the ramparts.
According to Posidonius, " the goods imported by sea until Narbon were transported up to the village of Tolosa ( Toulouse) where they could be embarked on the Garonne river to Aginnum ( Agen) and even until Burdigala. (Bordeaux)

So Narbon was, more than 2200 years ago, the center of a commercial traffic between the méditerranéan sea and Atlantic Ocean, and seen by the ancient " as the most important city in Gaule".
The Roman conceived very fast all the interest of this strategic place.
The Narbon port was then formed by the Aude river.The Roman created a diversion towards the pond of Vendres by means of a stony dike leaving the point where is situated Salléles d' Aude today. The Aude not having more than a single bed under the walls of Narbon threw itself into the lake of Rubresus. (Pond of Bages, Sigean and Peyriac).

The Roman built a big canal through this lake which allowed the passage to the city of Grau de La Nouvelle.

The archives gives credit sometimes to the emperor Caught and sometimes to the emperor Antonin Pie for the origin of this construction.

The archives gives credit sometimes to the emperor Caught and sometimes to the emperor Antonin Pie for the origin of this construction.it's dimensions were at the origin of about forty metres in width and thirty two feet deep. (Today some three metres.) It had a bed completely paved with stones, as were afterward, the Canal du Midi created by Pierre-Paul Riquet.

In the time of Pline, Narbonis's wealth, the fertility of its lands, the merit and the customs of its inhabitants made it the best of Roman provinces. Regrettably, wisigoths seized it, made it their capital in the the VIè century and brought sadness and inhumanity in the city.
From this time, Narbonne undergoes relentlessly phases of extreme decline and incredible bright upturn of prosperity. Because of its maritime and river situation, in the XIIth in the XIVth centuries, Narbonne knew prosperous time.

In 1320, the Aude breaking the dike built by the Roman destroyed Narbonne. Flowing into a new bed too far from the city the Aude ended in the Méditerranee.
The decline of Narbonne began : its inhabitants fled the city towards Aigues-Mortes and Montpelier. In the same time an epidemic of plague decimated a big part of the remaining population.

Several projects during the next centuries were subjected to the commissioners - representatives of the Roy, who would have allowed Narbonne to find its link with the sea, the merchant navy and the prosperity. None of them were accepted. (See" the canal and the port of Narbonne" from Marcelin Coural in the Lacour editions ).

In the XVIIth century, Pierre-Paul Riquet conceives the canal of the 2 seas linking the ocean to the Mediterranee. It was the project of Riquet to have the Canal going through Narbonne, city closest to the sea where a port could have been built. The city contributes for 400 000 pounds to the first works of the Canal. But these plans aremodified. The governors of the province, then in Montpelier, have at this time other projects in study. They wish to see the canal go on towards the Rhône river. Furthermore, Frontignan and Palavas are both in critical situation: Frontignan is closed since 1623 and Palavas has just closed (1660) in the mouth of Lez. It was necessary to find as quickly as possible a new outlet towards the sea which can open at the same time towards the valley of the Rhone.

Narbonne was not the convenient place to fill this objective. As a consequence the creation of a port in Sete was decreed and the first stone put on July 29th, 1666. In 1686, works are engaged to allow Narbonne to be joined by the navigators of the Canal du Midi.
This canal called canal of Robine, insures regrettably only an incomplete connection ; the goods are loaded on carts between Somail and Salléles d' Aude...

Marcelin Coural writes in the " Canal and the Port of Narbonne", from the editions Lacour " And so the general states of Languedoc, underestimating the first and grand idea of Riquet to join directly the Mediterranean Sea to the Ocean and the considerable role which its interoceanic canal was called to have in the commercial transactions of the world, saw, in this project, only an internal communication route of canal transport intended to connect the valleys of the Garonne and the Aude to the Rhone."

In 1760, the archbishop of Narbonne Arthur Dillon used his influence so that a treaty was signed between its city and the general States by which Narbonne gave up the Canal of Robine (connection of the sea in the Aude passing by Narbonne) in exchange for the construction between the Aude and the Canal du Midi of a canal of connection.
This canal crossed the Aude with the aqueduct of the Cesse going from Salléles d' Aude to the Somail. IIt crossed Narbonne throughout and went to end in the Mediterranean Sea in the Port de La Nouvelle.
This treaty was signed on February 11th, 1776 and the opening of the canal in 1787 allowed the city of Narbonne to find its formerly economy but without ever equalling the magnificence and the abundance that it had been in the antiquity.