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Montpellier History

Montpellier owes its origins to the count of Melgueil (Mauguio) who presented a certain Guilhem with the Monte pestalario estate towards the end of the 10th century.
Trade was quick to develop thanks to its ideal location, the River Lez faciliating communication. One hundred years later, Montpellier was surrounded by ramparts forming the 'Commune Cloture,' designated by 25 square towers, of which only 'des Pins' and 'Babote' remain intact today.
The surrounding boulevards were later constructed upon the old city's moats. Today the vieille ville is bounded by bd. Pasteur and bd. Louis blanc to the north, esplanade Charles de Gaulle and bd. Victor to the east, and bd. Jeu de Paumme to the west.

Its counts, most of them Guilhems, ruled the city from the 11th century. They were skilled in finding rich partners for their children. Marie married Peter II of Aragon in 1204 and four years later their son, Jaime I, was born in Montpellier. The city remained under the control of the Kings of Majorca until Philippe VI de Valois, the King of France bought it.

Montpellier became prosperous in the 13th century. Spices, sugar and silk arrived from Lattes (serving as Montpellier's port) on the river Lez. Great profits were made from the city's near monopoly in red dye. The colorant used was 'cochenille', a parasitic insect living on native evergreen oaks. In addition to the growth in trade, intellectaul activity gathered momentum with the founding of the facultiers of medicine, law and theology.

In the 15th & 16th centuries, Montpellier became an administrative centre for financial and legal institutions. The bishopric was also transferred to the city from Maguelone.
Montpellier wasn't touched by the anti-Cathar crusade but nearly all its medieval buildings were destroyed in the Wars of Religion. With the city at war, priest and nuns were forced to flee and buildings (churches mostly) flattened. Louis XIII resorted to siege which resulted in a compromise. The protestants retained their positions of influence but city became firmy under royal control.

The Revolution was the city's next major unheaval period in history. (wasn't it everywhere) A time of food shortages and the guillotine.


During the 60's the city experienced a 35 % growth in population with the arrival of the Pieds Noirs (the French forced to leave Algeria). The city has since established a firm economic and cultural footing.