Online Encyclopedia

BEZIERS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 841 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BEZIERS, a town of southern France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Herault, 47 M. S.W. of Montpellier by rail. Pop. (5906) 46,262. Beziers is situated in a wine-growing district on a hill on the left bank of the river Orb, which is joined at this point by the Canal du Midi. The Allees Paul Riquet, named after the creator of the canal, occupy the centre of Beziers and divide the old town with its maze of narrow and irregular streets from the new quarter to the east. They form a long and shady promenade, terminating al one end in the Place de la Republique and the theatre, the front of which is decorated with bas-reliefs by David d'Angers, and at the other in a beautiful park, the Plateau des Poetes. The most interesting portion of the town is the extreme west where the old ramparts overlook the Orb. Above them towers St Nazaire, the finest of the churches of Beziers; it dates from the 12th to the 14th centuries and is a good specimen of the ecclesiastical fortification common in southern France. Its chief artistic features are the rose window in the western facade, and the stained glass and curious iron grilles of the choir-windows, which belong to the 14th century. Adjoining the south transept there are Gothic cloisters of the 14th century. The Orb is crossed by four bridges, the railway bridge, an ancient bridge of the 13th or 14th century, a modern bridge and the fine aqueduct by which the Canal du Midi is carried over the river. About half a mile to the south-west of the town are the locks of Fonserannes, in which in 330 yds. the water of the canal descends 8o ft. to reach the level of the Orb. There are remains of a Roman arena which have been built into the houses of the rue St Jacques. Beziers is seat of a sub-prefect and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, communal colleges and several learned societies. It is an agricultural market and carries on an active trade in wine, brandy, fruit, leather and sulphur. Its industries are chiefly connected with the wine trade (cask and cork making, &c.) and there are important distilleries. It also has iron-works and tanneries. The Romans established a colony at Beziers, and it was the headquarters of the seventh legion, under the title of Baelerrae Septimanorum. The present name occurs in the form Besara as early as Festus Avienus (later 4th century). The town was completely destroyed in 1209 by the forces of Simon de Montfort in the crusade against the Albigenses, on which occasion 20,000 persons were massacred. The walls were rebuilt in 1289; but the town again suffered severely in.the civil and religious wars of the 16th century, and all its fortifications were destroyed in 1632.
End of Article: BEZIERS
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