Last modified: 2009-12-26 by ivan sache
Keywords: herault | montpellier | disc (red) | throne | blessed virgin | baby jesus | letter: m | montpellier district |
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Municipal flag of Montpellier - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 24 June 2001
Montpellier is a town of 229,055 inhabitants (1999 census), prefecture of both the department of Hérault and the Region Languedoc-Roussillon. Montpellier is therefore the eigth largest French town, just before Bordeaux. The population of the town doubled during the 40 last years.
In 985, a local lord named Guilhem was granted two manses (estates) by his suzereign, the Count of Mauguio. One of these estates was a hill called Monte Pestelario, on which the Guilhem dynasty thrived. In the 11th century, Montpellier was a small fortified town with a castle and a church, which indicated some significance. In the beginning of the 13th century, the town was reorganized by building new walls linking Montpellier, the lord's town, to Montpelliéret, the Bishop's town. A Faculty of Medicine and a College of Law and Art were created, while Montpellier minted its own currency (sceau des consuls).
At the end of the Guilhem dynasty, Montpellier was incorporated into the Kingdom of Aragon but was de facto a republic with a Chart of Customs and Liberties. In the middle of the 14th century, Montpellier was sold to the king of France, who was not really interested in the development of the town.
In the 16th century, Louis XIII sent troops to establish peace between the Catholics and the Protestants. In the 17-18th centuries, Montpellier was the capital of Lower-Languedoc. Several town houses, churches, as well as the theater and the general hospital were built.
In the 19th century, the development of wine-growing caused an increase in the wealth of the town and a new urban reorganization, with the building of the Court Hall, new churches and the railway station, and the rebuilding of the theater. However, the development of Montpellier was stopped by the phylloxeera epidemics and, subsequently, by the overproduction of wine.
Montpellier had two Gilded Ages. The first one occurred before the incorporation to the Kingdom of Aragon. Montpellier was then the second largest town in France, owning trade posts in Tyr, Akkro, Tripoli and Armenia. Its universities were among the most famous in Europe. The second Gilded Age of Montpellier occurred in the 18th century when Richelieu and Louis XIV increased the power of the intendants and made of Montpellier a regional capital.
The Sainte-Anne borough has kept medieval houses, as well as the
borough of Aiguillerie. The Pines' and Babotte Towers are
the only two remains of the 25 towers wich were linked by the town
The old town of Montpellier was mostly built during the second Gilded Age of the city and several town houses have been preserved (Hôtel Jacques-Cœur, Hôtel de Montcalm, Hôtel de Manse, Hôtel de Varennes, Hôtel Saint-Côme). In the outskirts of the town, the aristocrates and bourgeois built in the 18th centuries manors called folies (follies), such as the Castles of Flaugergues, Mogère, Engarrand and Mosson.
The 17-18th century downtown was recently completely restored and the big Place de la Comédie, locally known as l'Œuf ("The Egg") because of its shape, became the heart of Montpellier. Modern architectural groupings (for instance, Antigone) were designed by the Catalan, post-modern, neo-classical architect Ricardo Bofill and harmoniously appended to the historical center.
At the end of the 16th century, Henri IV founded in Montpellier the first Botanical Garden in France, which was then dedicated to the study of medicinal herbs. In the 17th century, a mail was created near the Botanical Garden to place Louis XIV's equestrian statue. The water castle and mail of Peyrou were designed by Jean-Antoine Giral, member of a local architects' dynasty. At the end of the 17th century, a triumphal arch linking the mail to the town was built by d'Aviler after plans dranw by François d'Orbay.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 5 May 2003
The town hall, a huge concrete building not really in harmony with
the surrounding buildings, has three poles on its flat roof:
- the center pole, higher than the two others, flies the French national flag;
- the pole at viewer's left flies two flags, the one with the municipal coat of arms flying above the traditional flag of Provence, vertically striped yellow-red;
- the pole at viewer's right also flies two flags, the one with the logo of the town flying above the traditional flag of Languedoc.
A row of flags is displayed on the main square in front of the town hall:
- the municipal flag with the logo, slightly different from the flag hoisted on the roof of the town hall;
- the flag of European Union;
- the flag of Germany, for the twin town of Heidelberg);
- the flag of China, for the twin town of Chengdu;
- the flag of Spain, for the twin town of Barcelona;
- the flag of the USA,for the twin town of Louisville;
- the flag of France;
- the flag of Israel, for the twin town of Tiberias.
Ivan Sache, 24 June 2001
Flag with the municipal coat of arms - Image by Ivan Sache, 24 June 2001; coat of arms after GASO website
The flag on the roof of the town hall refered above bears the municipal coat of arms on a white background.
The coat of arms of Montpellier shows on a blue field the Blessed Virgin holding Jesus and sitting on a golden throne. The uncial letters "A" and "M", in silver, placed in chief, stand for "Ave Maria". In the base of the arms is a white escutcheon with a red roundel, which was the blazon of the Guilhem dynasty.
Source: GASO website
Ivan Sache, 24 June 2001