1902 Encyclopedia > Narbonne, France

Narbonne, France

NARBONNE, a city of France, chief town of an arrondissement in the department of Aude, lies 5 miles from the Meditarranean, on the Robine Canal, a branch of the Canal du Midi, which connects it with the port of La Nouvelle, and on the railway from Toulouse to Cette, 93 miles east-south-east of the former city, at the point where the line for Barcelona via Perpignan breaks off. The Robine Canal divides Narbonne into two distinct portions, the bourg and the cite. The latter is one of the oldest and most interesting of French towns. The cathedral (St Just) is the third on the site, and dates from the close of the 13th century, when the choir (130 feet high) was built. Two towers were added in the 15th century. An unusual effect is produced by a double row of crenellation taking the place of balustrades on the roof of the choir chapels and connecting the pillars of the flying buttresses. Among the sepulchral monuments in the chancel may be noticed the alabaster tomb of Cardinal de Briconnet, minister of state under Charles VIII. The chapter-house, of the 15th century, has a vaulted roof supported on four free pillars. From the top of the towers, 194 feet high, a magnificent view is obtained over the Narbonne plain, the valley of the Aude, the Montagne Noire, the Cevennes, the hills of La Clape, which lie between the city and the sea, the Canigou, and the Corbieres. The apse of the cathedral was formerly joined to the fortifications of the archiepiscopal palace, and the two buildings are still connected by a mutilated cloister of the 14th and 15th centuries. On the front of the palace are three square towers of unequal height. Between the Tour des Telegraphes (1318), crenellated and turreted at the corners, and that of Ms Martial (1380), machicolated and pierced by Gothic openings, a new façade was erected in the style of the 15th century after the plans of Violle-le-Duc. This portion of the building no serves as hotel de ville, and its upper stories are occupied by the Narbonne museum, one of the best outside of Paris, containing pictures pottery, nearly three thousand medals, and (in the old guard-room) a rich variety of Greek, Carthaginian, and Roman antiquities. The palace garden also contains many fragments of Roman work once built into the now dismantled fortifications; and the Musee Lapidaire in the Lamourguier buildings (formerly a Benedictine convent) has six hundred and twenty bas-reliefs and three hundred and twenty-three ancient inscriptions. The church of St Paul, though partly Romanesque, is in the main a striking and for the south of France a rare example of a building of the first half of the 13th century in the Gothic style of the north. It possesses some ancient Christian sarcophaguses and fine Renaissance wood carving. Narbonne has a good trade, especially in wine and spirituous liquors,- the surrounding country growing (at the rate of 120 gallons per care) strong alcoholic wines, largely in demand for "fortifying" weaker vintages. As a matter of course this gives employment to large numbers of coopers; and besides there are in the town several verdigris factories, a sulphur refinery, and tanneries. The honey of Narbonne is famed throughout Europe. The population in 1881 was 28,134.

Long before the Roman invasion of Gaul Narbonne was a flourishing city. It was there that the Romans in 118 B.C. founded their first colony in Gaul; and they constructed great works to protect the city from inundation and to improve its port. The seat of a proconsul and a station for the Roman fleet, narbo martius became the rival of Massilia. But in 150 A.D. it suffered greatly from a conflagration, and the division of Gallia, Narbonensis into two provinces lessened its importance as a cpital. Alans, Suevi. Vandals, each held the city for a brief space and at last, in 413, it was more permanently occupied by the Visigoths. In 719, after a siege of two years, it was captured by the Saracens, and by them its fortifications were restored and extended. Charles martel, after the battle of Poitiers, and Pippin the Short, in 752 were both repulsed from its walls; but on a new attempt, after an investment of seven years, and by aid of a traitor, the Franks managed again to force their way into Narbonne. Charlemagne made the city of the capital of the duchy of Gothia, and divided it into three lordships-one for the bishop, another for a Frankish lord, and the third for the Jews, who, occupying their own quarter, possessed schools synagogues, and a university famous in the Middle Ages. The viscounts who succeeded the Frankish lord sometimes acknowledged the authority of the counts of Toulouse, sometimes that of counts of Barcelona. In the 13th century the crusade against the Albigenses spared the city, but the archbishopric was seized by the pope’s legate Amaury, who took the title of duke of Narbonne. Simon de Montfort, however, deprived him of his dignity, receiving from Philip Augustus the duchy of Narbonne along with the county of Toulouse. By his expulsion of the Jews Philip the Fair hastened the decay of the city; and about the same period the Aude, which had formerly been diverted by the Romans, ceased to flow towards Narbonne and the harbor was silted up, to the further disadvantage of the place. United to the French crown in 1507, Narbonne was enclosed by a new line of walls under Francis I., but having ceased to be a garrison town it had the last portions of its ramparts demolished in 1870.

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