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Béziers

A CRESCENT moon curled against the riverbank

Béziers is built upon a solid, unyielding stone bluff forming a bend in the Orb river, against which the town holds all the traces of its history. Its beautiful houses, and its churches have seen many a dramatic historical event unfold. You never know whether to be amazed or to shiver when you think of all the ghosts of the town's violent past when you stroll from Roman church to cathedral. At the Madeleine, in 1167, Raymond Trencavel was assassinated and in 1209 several hundred Cathars and their sympathisers were burned alive.

Happily the town's history has its lighter side, most particularly in the traditions of wine production and art. A passion and a talent for art is evident everwhere in the city, where the works of architects and sculptors can be admired at every turn, notably the sculptor Injalbert. This elegant face of the city also has its expression in the Canal du Midi, which was begun here by one of the town's most famous sons, Paul Riquet. The waterways of Béziers, river and canal, are vital transport links in taking the region's wine to far horizons. In the 19th century Béziers became the undisputed capital of the Languedoc wine producing region, and today enhances that spiritied tradition with bullfighting and rugby!

 

 


Hammer and chisel

The name of Jean-Antoine Injalbert (1845-1933) is spoken, repeated, engraved and written throughout all the places you'll visit in Béziers. Injalbert was a master stone craftsman whose name is known from Paris to Italy. A professor at the Medici villa and the Beaux Arts in Paris, he was also a member of the jury at the Exposition universelle. His imprint can be seen at his summer house, la villa Antonine, and in the Place Injalbert, where his works can be admired under the arches, before passing through the Vieux cemetary – where he created many of the tombstones. At the plateau des Poètes, one of the town's parks his Titan fountain shows off his flair, along with busts of poets from the region and the whole country, such as Victor Hugo. Finally at the Beaux-Arts museum, in the hôtel Fayet, several sketches and completed works, bequeathed by the master to his home town, are on display.

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