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Béziers (Besièrs in Occitan, and Besiers in Catalan) is a town in Languedoc in the southwest of Francemarker. It is a commune and a sub-prefecture of the Hérault department. Béziers hosts the famous Feria de Béziers, centred around bullfighting, every August. A million visitors are attracted to the five-day event.


The town is located on a small bluff above the river Orbmarker, about from the Mediterranean Seamarker. At Béziers the Canal du Midimarker spans the river Orb as an aqueduct called the Pont-canal de l'Orbmarker. claimed to be the first of its kind.


The site has been occupied since Neolithic times, before the influx of Celts. Roman Betarra was on the road that linked Provence with Iberiamarker. The Romans refounded the city as a new colonia for veterans in 36/35 BC and called it Colonia Julia Baeterrae Septimanorum. Stones from the Roman amphitheatre were used to construct the city wall during the 3rd century.

White wine was exported to Romemarker; two dolia discovered in an excavation near Rome are marked, one "I am a wine from Baeterrae and I am five years old," the other simply "white wine of Baeterrae". She was occupied by Moors between 720 and 752.

During the 10th through 12th centuries Béziers was the centre of a Viscountship of Béziers. The viscounts ruled most of the coastal plain around the city, including also the city of Agdemarker. They also controlled the major east-west route through Languedoc, roughly following the old Roman Via Domitia, with the two key bridges over the Orb at Béziers and over the Héraultmarker at Saint-Thibérymarker.

After the death of viscount William around 990, the viscounty passed to his daughter Garsendis and her husband, count Raimond-Roger of Carcassonnemarker (d. ~1012). It was then ruled by their son Peter-Raimond (d. ~1060) and his son Roger (d. 1067), both of whom were also counts of Carcassonne.

Roger died without children and Béziers passed to his sister Ermengard and her husband Raimond-Bertrand Trencavel. The Trencavels were to rule for the next 142 years, until the Albigensian Crusade - a formal 'Crusade' (holy war) authorised by Pope Innocent III.

Béziers was a Languedoc stronghold of Catharism, which the Catholic Church condemned as heretical and which Catholic forces extirpated in the Albigensian Crusade. Béziers was sacked on 22 July 1209. Béziers' Catholics were given the opportunity to leave before the Crusaders besieged the city. However, they refused and fought with the Cathars. In a sortie outside the walls, their combined force was defeated, and pursued back into town. In the bloody massacre which followed, no one was spared, not even those who took refuge in the churches.One of the commanders of the crusade was the Papal Legate Arnaud-Amaury (or Arnald Amalaricus, Abbot of Citeauxmarker). When asked by a Crusader how to tell Catholics from Cathars once they had taken the city, the abbot supposedly replied, "Kill them all, God will know His own" - "Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet". (This often quoted phrase is sourced from Caesarius of Heisterbach along with a story of some Cathars who desecrated a copy of the Old Testament and threw it from the town's walls.)

The invaders fired the cathedral of Saint Nazairemarker, which collapsed on those who had taken refuge inside. The town was pillaged and burnt. None were left alive. (A plaque opposite the cathedral records the 'Day of Butchery' perpetrated by the 'northern barons'.) A few parts of the Romanesque cathedral St-Nazairemarker survived, and repairs started in 1215. The restoration, along with that of the rest of the city, continued until the 15th century.

In the repression following Louis Napoléon's coup d'état in 1851, troops fired on and killed Republican protestors in Béziers. Others were condemned to death or transported to Guianamarker, including a former mayor who died at sea attempting to escape from there. In the Place de la Révolution a plaque and a monument by Jean Antoine Injalbert commemorates these events. (Injalbert also designed the Fontaine du Titan in Béziers' Plâteau des Poètes park and the Molière monument in nearby Pézenasmarker.)

Ecclesiastical history

Local traditions had St. Aphrodisius arrive at Béziers mounted on a camel. Hence the custom of leading a mechanical camel in the procession at Béziers on the feast of the saint. The camel was burned during the Wars of Religion and again during the French Revolution. The custom was revived in 1803 only to be discontinued during the Revolution of 1830, when it was considered a symbol of feudalism and religious fanaticism. Today, it continues to run through the city's streets during local holidays. The current head dates from the eighteenth century. In the 1970s, it was proposed that the camel be remade to give it a real camel's appearance. However, the townspeople protested and the camel retained its traditional appearance.

The first historically known bishop is Paulinus mentioned in 418; St. Guiraud was Bishop of Béziers from 1121 to 1123.

Various sources state that the population of the town in 1209 was nearly twenty thousand [including a letter by Arnaud Amaury to Pope Innocent III] and none were spared when the Crusaders led by Simon de Montfort stormed the defences. Several thousand men women and children sought refuge in the Eglise de la Madeleine and all were slaughtered. Poignantly, the massacre took place on July 22 1209 (Ste. Madeleine's Day- the feast of Mary Magdalene).

Several thousand others took refuge in the [Cathedral of St Nazaire] but this was set alight by the Crusaders and almost completely destroyed, none survived.


The residents are called Biterrois.


Today Béziers is a principal centre of the Languedoc viticulture and winemaking industries.


The A9 autoroute skirts Béziers. The final link in the A75 autoroute between Pezenasmarker and the A9 will be completed by spring 2010 and provide direct links to Clermont-Ferrandmarker and Parismarker.

Béziers Cap d'Agde Airportmarker (previously Béziers-Agde-Vias Airport), owned by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, currently provides daily direct flights to Parismarker Orly and seasonal services to Bastiamarker. Following an extension to the runway which was completed in March 2007, Ryanair began flights to and from Bristol International Airportmarker in March 2008, and later to London Stanstedmarker and London Luton Airportmarker. Danish airline, Cimber Air has started a summer service to Odensemarker.

Notable people

Béziers was the birthplace of:

Cultural references

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Béziers is twinned with:


  • Modern Béziers fields a rugby union team (AS Béziers) with twelve championships to their credit.
  • Inhabitants of Béziers are known as Biterrois (male) or Biterroises (female), after Baeterrae, the Roman name for the town.
  • Béziers also hosts annual Languedocian sea-jousts in the summer.
  • The nearby Oppidum d'Ensérunemarker is an important archaeological site.
  • The nearby Étang de Montadymarker, a marsh drained in 1247, is a field and irrigation system which is visible from the Oppidum d'Ensérune. Plots radiate out from the centre where channels that drain the land empty into a collector. The water is carried away by an aqueduct that passes under the hill to the floor of the old Capestang Lake, itself drained in the 19th century.

See also


External links

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