Narbonne - Encyclopedia

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NARBONNE, a city of France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Aude, situated in a vine-growing plain 5 m. from the Mediterranean, on the railway from Toulouse to Cette, 37 m. E. of Carcassonne. Pop. (1906) 23,289. The Robine canal, a branch of the Canal du Midi, 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 former cathedral (St Just), which consists only of a choir 130 ft. high and transept, was begun in 1272, and the transept was still unfinished at the end of the 15th century. The towers (194 ft. high) at each extremity of the transept were built about 1480. Some additions towards the west were made early in the 18th 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, which are the chief feature of the interior, may be noticed the alabaster tomb of Cardinal Guillaume Briconnet, minister of state under Charles VIII. The chapterhouse, of the 15th century, has a vaulted roof supported on four free pillars. The treasury preserves many interesting relics. 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 St Martial (1374), machicolated and pierced by Gothic openings, a new façade was erected in the style of the 13th century after the plans of Viollet-le-Duc. This portion of the building now serves as hotel de ville, and its upper stories are occupied by the Narbonne museum of art and archaeology, which includes a fine collection of pottery. 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 the church of a Benedictine convent) has a collection of Roman remains derived from the same source. The church of St Paul, though partly Romanesque, is in the main 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 sarcophagi and fine Renaissance wood carving. Narbonne has a sub-prefecture, tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade arbitration, a chamber of commerce, a communal college for boys and a school of commerce and industry. It has a good trade in wine and spirituous liquors, and is famous for its honey. The industries include cooperage, sulphur-refining, brandy-distilling and the manufacture of bricks and tiles and verdigris.

Long before the Roman invasion of Gaul Narbonne was a flourishing city, being capital of the Volcae Tectosages. It was there that the Romans in 118 B.C. founded their first colony in Gaul, which bore the name of Narbo Martius; they constructed great works to protect the city from inundation and to improve its port, situated on a lake now filled up but at that time communicating with the sea. Capital of Gallia Narbonensis, the seat of a proconsul and a station for the Roman fleet, Narbo Martius became the rival of Massilia. But in A.D. 150 it suffered greatly from a conflagration, and the division of Gallia Narbonensis into two provinces lessened its importance as a capital. Alans, Suevi, Vandals, each held the city for a brief space, and at last, in 413, it was occupied by the Visigoths, whose capital it afterwards became. 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 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 the 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, Arnaud Araury, who took the title of viscount of Narbonne. Simon de 1VIontfort, however, deprived him of this 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 harbour was silted up, to the further disadvantage of the place. In 1642 Henri Marquis de Cinq-Mars was arrested at Narbonne for conspiring against Richelieu. 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. The archbishopric was founded about the middle of the 3rd century, its first holder being Sergius Paulus; it was suppressed in 1790.

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