Narbonne is a commune in southern France in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the 27 regions of France. It comprises five departments, and borders the other French regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Rhône-Alpes, Auvergne, Midi-Pyrénées on the one side, and Spain, Andorra and the Mediterranean Sea on the other side. 68.7% of Languedoc-Roussillon was formerly part the province of Languedoc: the departments of Hérault, Gard, Aude, the extreme south and extreme east of Lozère, and the extreme north of Pyrénées-Orientales. The former province of Languedoc also extends over the Midi-Pyrénées region, including the old capital of Languedoc Toulouse. 17.9% of Languedoc-Roussillon was formerly the province of Gévaudan: Lozère department. A small part of the former Gévaudan lies inside the current Auvergne region. Gévaudan is often considered to be a sub-province inside the province of Languedoc, in which case Languedoc would account for 86.6% of Languedoc-Roussillon. 13.4% of Languedoc-Roussillon, located in the southernmost part of the region, is a collection of five historical Catalan pays: Roussillon, Vallespir, Conflent, Capcir, and Cerdagne, all of which are in turn included, east to west, in the Pyrénées-Orientales département. These pays were part of the Ancien Régime province of Roussillon, owning its name to the largest and most populous of the five pays, Roussillon. The Province of Roussillon and adjacent lands of Cerdagne were the name that was officially used after the area became French in 1659, based on the historical division of the five pays between the county of Roussillon. Llívia is a town of Cerdanya, province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain, that forms a Spanish exclave surrounded by French territory - Pyrénées-Orientales département.
Narbonne lies 849 kilometers or 528 miles from Paris in the Aude department, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Once a prosperous port, it is now located about 15 kilometers or 9.3 miles from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It is marginally the largest commune in Aude, although the capital of Aude is the slightly smaller commune of Carcassonne. Narbonne is linked to the nearby Canal du Midi and the Aude River by the Canal de la Robine, which runs through the center of town. Narbonne was established in Gaul in 118 BC, as Colonia Narbo Martius. It was located on the Via Domitia, the first Roman road in Gaul, built at the time of the foundation of the colony, and connecting Italy to Spain. Geographically, Narbonne was therefore located at a very important crossroads because it was situated where the Via Domitia connected to the Via Aquitania, which led toward the Atlantic through Toulouse and Bordeaux. In addition, it was crossed by the Aude River. Surviving members of Julius Caesar's Legio X Equestris were given lands in the area that today is called Narbonne. Politically, Narbonne gained importance as a competitor to Massalia (Marseille). Julius Caesar settled veterans from his 10th legion there and attempted to develop its port while Marseille was revolting against Roman control. Among the amenities of Narbonne, its rosemary-flower honey was famous among Romans. Later, the provincia of southern Gaul was named "Gallia Narbonensis", after the city, and Narbonne was made its capital. Seat of a powerful administration, the city enjoyed economic and architectural expansion.
It was subsequently the capital of the Visigothic province of Septimania, the only territory from Gaul to fend off the Frankish thrust after the Battle of Vouille in 507. For 40 years, from 719 to 759, Narbonne was part of the Emirate of Cordoba with a strong Gothic presence. The Carolingian Pepin the Short conquered Narbonne from the Muslims in 759 after which it became part of the Carolingian Viscounty of Narbonne. He invited, according to Christian sources, prominent Jews from the Caliphate of Bagdad to settle in Narbonne and establish a major Jewish learning center for Western Europe. In the 12th century, the court of Ermengarde of Narbonne, who reigned from 1134 to 1192, presided over one of the cultural centers where the spirit of courtly love was developed. In the 11th and 12th centuries, Narbonne was home to an important Jewish exegetical school, which played a pivotal role in the growth and development of the Zarphatic (Judæo-French) and Shuadit (Judæo-Provençal) languages. Jews had settled in Narbonne from about the 5th century, with a community that had risen to approximately 2000 in the 12th century. At this time, Narbonne was frequently mentioned in Talmudic works in connection with its scholars. One source, Abraham ibn Daud of Toledo, gives them an importance similar to the exilarchs of Babylon. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the community went through a series of ups and downs before settling into extended decline.
Narbonne itself fell into a slow decline in the 14th century, for a variety of reasons. One was due to a change in the course of the Aude River, which caused increased silting of the navigational access. The river, known as the Atax in ancient times, had always had two main courses which split close to Salelles; one fork going south through Narbonne and then to the sea close to the Clappe Massif, the other heading east to the etang at Vendres close to the current mouth of the river well to the east of the city. The Romans had improved the navigability of the river by building a dam near Salelles and also by canalising the river as it passed through its marshy delta to the sea. Then as now the canal was and is known as the Robine. A major flood in 1320 swept the dam away. The Aude River had a long history of overflowing its banks. When it was a bustling port, the distance from the coast was approximately 5 to 10 kilometers, but at that time the access to the sea was deep enough when the river was in full spate which made communication between port and city unreliable. However, goods could easily be transported by land and in shallow barges from the ports. There were several: a main port and forward ports for larger vessels; the navigability from the sea into the etang and then into the river had always been a perennial problem. The changes to the long seashore which resulted from the silting up of the series of graus or openings which were interspersed between the islands which made up the shoreline (St. Martin; St. Lucie) had a more serious impact than the change in course of the river. Other causes of decline were the plague and the raid of Edward, the Black Prince, which caused much devastation. The growth of other ports were also a factor.
Narbonne Cathedral, dedicated to Saints Justus and Pastor, provides stark evidence of Narbonne's sudden and dramatic change of fortunes when one sees at the rear of the structure the enormously ambitious building programme frozen in time, for the cathedral—still one of the tallest in France—was never finished. The reasons are many, but the most important is that the completed cathedral would have required demolishing the city wall. The 14th century also brought the plague and a host of reasons for retaining the 5th century (pre-Visigothic) walls. Yet the choir, side chapels, sacristry, and courtyard remain intact, and the cathedral, although no longer the seat of a bishop or archbishop, remains the primary place of worship for the Roman Catholic population of the city, and is a major tourist attraction. From the 16th century, eager to maintain a link to important trade, the people of Narbonne began costly work to the vestiges of the Aude River's access to the sea so that it would remain navigable to a limited draft vessel and also serve as a link with the Royal Canal. This major undertaking resulted in the construction of the Canal de la Robine, which was finally linked with the Canal du Midi, then known as the Royal Canal, via the Canal de Jonction in 1776. In the 19th century, the canal system in the south of France came into competition with an expanding rail network, but kept some importance due to the flourishing wine trade.
Despite its decline from Roman times, Narbonne managed to hold on to its vital but limited importance as a trading route, particularly in more recent centuries. Noteable buildings like the Palais des Archevêques, the Archbishop's Palace, and its donjon commands views over the city of Narbonne - The Archbishops Palace is a great architectural complex with an old roman palace in Gothic style . Its façade has three square towers dating from the 13th and 14th centuries. It now contains the 19th century town hall, the museum of art and history and the archaeological museum in Narbonne. Musée Archeologique, an archaeological museum is in the town center and the Roman Horreum, a former grain warehouse, built underground as a cryptoporticus is also a part of Narbonne, as are the remains of the Via Domitia in the city center. The canal, Canal de la Robine, runs through the center of the town and the Halles covered market still operates every day with the busiest times being Sunday and Thursday mornings. The 18th century renovated Maison de Maitre with surrounding gardens and a private parking area is just a short distance from the Canal de la Robine in Narbonne and within easy walking distance of the center of town with lively shops and cafés. The Gare de Narbonne railway station offers direct connections to Paris, Barcelona, Toulouse, Marseille and several regional destinations. The TGV takes visitors on high-speed rail from Paris to Narbonne in only 4 hours and 30 minutes, it is only 30 minutes to the Montpellier Airport and just 10 minutes to the sunny beach at Narbonne Plage.
Narbonne Plage is completely separate from Narbonne. The Montagne de la Clape is an isolated plateau in between the two and though only 214 meters high it shields Narbonne from the coast and gives Narbonne Plage the feeling of a proper beach resort on its own. The Montagne is a world on its own with small ponds and deep ravines.The trees on its slopes are mosty Aleppo and umbrella pines. Honey is harvested in April after the bees have dined in early spring on wild thyme and rosemary. The road to the plage has many places where visitors can buy local wine grown on the limestone slopes where they are exposed to strong direct sun and salt spray. During ski season it is only 1 hour and 30 minutes to ski resorts in the Pyrénees. The local economy is based squarely on the wine industry making the most of the renowned nearby vineyards of Corbières. Narbonne also functions as a transportation crossroads being at the junction of the A9 and A61 motorways, it’s a convenient spot to reach from Toulouse, Barcelona and all points east along the Mediterranean.
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