Perpignan is a commune and the préfecture (administrative capital city)
of the Pyrénées-Orientales département in southern France.
Perpignan was the capital of the former province and county of
Roussillon (Rosselló in Catalan).
Population (2004) : 116,700 (Perpignanais) in the city proper.
The metropolitan area had a total population of 249,016 in 1999 and
more than 300,000 inhabitants today.
read full wikipedia reference about Perpignan, France
This far south, climate
and geography alone would ensure a palpable Spanish influence.
But more than this, a good part of PERPIGNAN 's population
is of Spanish origin - refugees from the Civil War and their
descendants. The southern influence is further augmented by a
substantial admixture of North Africans, including both Arabs
and white French settlers repatriated after Algerian independence
While there are few memorable
monuments to visit, Perpignan is a pleasant city with a lively
street life. Its heyday was in the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries, when the kings of Majorca held their court here, and
it is from this period that most of its historical interest derives.
Well placed on the main Mediterranean coast international lines
of communication, it is much the best base for exploring the
eastern end of the Pyrenees, and the Cathar castles of the Corbières
The best place to begin
your exploration of Perpignan is at Le Castillet , built as a
gateway in the fourteenth century and now home to the Casa Pairal
(daily except Tues: mid-June to mid-Sept 9.30am-7pm; rest of
year 9am-6pm), an interesting museum of Roussillon's Catalan
folk culture, featuring religious art, agricultural and pastoral
exposés, and all sorts of local crafts. From the roof
there is a great view of the dominant pile of Canigou, while
to the northwest you may be able to pick out the Château
de Quéribus , standing clear of its ridge. A short distance
down rue Louis-Blanc you come to the place de la Loge , focus
of the renovated and pedestrianized heart of the old town. Dominating
the cafés and brasseries of the narrow square is Perpignan's
most interesting building, the Gothic Loge de Mer . Designed
to hold the city's stock exchange and maritime court, and decorated
with gargoyles and lacy balustrades, its ground floor has been
taken over by an incongruous fast-food joint. Side by side next
door are the Hôtel de Ville , with its magnificent wrought-iron
gates and Maillol's statue of La Méditerranée in
the courtyard, and the fifteenth-century Palais de la Députation
, once the parliament of Roussillon.
From place de la Loge,
rue St-Jean runs down to the fourteenth-century Cathédrale
St-Jean on place Gambetta (Mon & Wed-Sat 10am-noon &
2-5pm, Tues & Sun 2-5pm), its external walls built of bands
of river stones sandwiched by brick. The interior is most interesting
for its elaborate Catalan altarpieces, shadowy in the gloom of
the dimly lit nave, and for the tortured wooden crucifix, known
as the Dévôt Christ , in a side chapel to the south.
Dating from around 1400, it's of Rhenish origin and was probably
brought back from the Low Countries by a travelling merchant.
Past the chapel, on the left is the entrance to the Campo Santo
, one of France's oldest cemeteries, dating back some 600 years
(same hours as cathedral).
From the cathedral, rue
de la Révolution-Française and rue de l'Anguille
lead into the close, dilapidated maze of the Arab and Romany
quarter , where women congregate on the secluded inner lanes
but are seldom seen on the more public thoroughfares. Here there
are North African shops and cafés, especially on rue Lucia,
and a daily market on place Cassanyes . At the heart of the quarter,
the wide and grimy place du Puig is overlooked by a Vauban barracks
converted into public housing. Just past it, at the top of a
shady uphill street, is the elegant Catalan church of St-Jacques
, dating from around 1200, on the edge of La Miranda gardens
(July & Aug 8am-noon & 2.30-6.30pm; rest of year 8am-noon
& 2.30-5.30pm), laid out on a section of the old city walls.
It is from this church that the Procession de la Sanch sets out
on Maundy (Holy) Thursday.
A twenty-minute walk away
through place des Esplanades, crowning the hill that dominates
the southern part of the old town, is the Palais des Rois de
Majorque (daily: June-Sept 10am-6pm; rest of year 9am-5pm). Although
Vauban's walls surround it now, the two-storey palace and its
great arcaded courtyard date originally from the late thirteenth
century. Thanks to the Spanish-Moorish influence, there's a sophistication
and finesse about the architecture and detailing - for instance
in the beautiful marble porch to the lower of the two chapels
- that you don't often find in the heavier styles of the north.
Finally, at 16 rue de l'Ange
near place Arago, you'll find Perpignan's museum of art, the
Musée Rigaud (Wed-Sun noon-7pm), dedicated to the work
of the locally born portraitist Hyacinthe Rigaud, who became
official painter to the court of Versailles in the early eighteenth
century. The collection also includes works by Dufy, Maillol,
Picasso, Tapiès, Appel and others.
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