Montpellier - A little History
Montpellier is a relatively new town, as it began during the 10th century AD, rather than from Roman times. It is built on 2 hills - Montpellier and Montpellieret, with often steep streets between the two.
In earlier times, settlement was around Maguelone - (vist the Cathedral) - but because of pirates, the population moved inland.
The counts of Toulouse created castle and walled town so that Montpellier became an important trading center in the 10th century with a liberal tolerance where Jews, Muslims, Cathars, and later Protestants were able to live together peacefully. Under this umbrella William VII of Montpellier established a faculty of medicine in 1180 - later to become the foundation of the University in 1220.
Between 1213 and 1349 Montpellier was under the rule of the Kings of Aragon. In 1349 it was sold to France and French king Philip VI. In the reformation Montpellier became the haven of the Huguenots (Protestants) and became the object of King Louis XIII siege.
During the 19th century Montpellier grew as an industrial center; in the 1960s it grew larger with an big influx of Algerians (13,000), escaping Algeria, after its independance from France.
Really coming into its own, as it the favoured home of the kings of Mallorca in the 1200s - Montpellier became second in size to Paris in the 13th century due in most part as it being the center for arts, medicine, and the law.
Entering the old town by the Rue de la Loge, you will find your way to Hotel de Varennes - where the ground floor is almost all gothic, with a splendid 14th century salle de Pétrarqueh - a long hall with stone ribbed vault. Around the rue de Cannau, you will find a grouping of splendid homes with beautiful doorways and windows. The 17th century Ursuline convent is now a dance performance space. The Hotel de la Vieille Intendance, the old govennors mansion, was once the home to Auguste Comte, as well as Paul Valéry. After the pretty place du Chabanneau, and the broad Place de la Canourgue, with its grand 17th century buildings, you reach Montpellier's Cathedral, with massive towers, dating back to the 14th century.
A little further on, you can walk in the Jardin des Plantes, a royal herbal garden, now under the control of the University botany department. It is the oldest botanical garden in France. The is nice place to visit in the heat of Summer.
Above the Jardin de Plantes, you will walk across the bold expanse of the place du Peyrou, looked over by the monumental sculpture (1838) of Emperor Louis XIV - complimenting the Arc de Triomf, that has reliefs relating to the history of the region on its side. At one end of the Place du Peyrou, you will find a pavillion with fine views over the surrounding Languedoc country side, with in its foreground the Pont de St Clement - an aqueduct that brought water into the city, that looks like thte Pont du Gard - but Pont St Clement is 17th century not of the Roman era!
Going through the arch way, you will meet the impressive neo classical Palace de Justice. Further on at the place St Ravy - are all thats left of the Mallorca royal palace. The Tour de la Babote is one of the oldest parts of Montpellier, being a part of the city defenses in the 12th century.
Situated in the Jewish quarter - is one of the best preserved
mikves (ceremonial Jewish bath) in Europe dating from the 13th century.
Ricard Bofill has created a new Montpellier in his Antigone, a 2 kms building complex of neo Georgian futuristic architecture, that culminates in the Esplanade de l'Europe, on the banks of the river Lez, and the new Hotel de Region - Languedoc Roussillon's govenmental seat.
The University of Montpellier is one of the oldest in the world (1160), being given a charter in 1220.
Faculty of Medecine
The doctors of Montpellier were highly thought of in 1137, no doubt providing the beginnings of the School of Medecine, which was to become internationally famous. For a time under the Bishop of Maguelonne. In 1529 Nostradamus enrolled at the Faculty of Montpellier to earn his doctorate in medicine. At the same time François Rabelais (c. 1493 - 1553), in 1530, enrolled at the Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier, where he also taught courses on Hippocrates and Galen
The neoclassic Faculty of Medecine, is still well ecliastically placed, next to the Cathedral - where you can visit the Anatomy museum. Another related place to visit is the Hotel Saint-Côme, where the surgeon François de Lapeyronie, created an anatomical ampitheatre, next to surgeons meeting rooms. The building is now the home to Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Montpellier.
For those seeking further medical museums - visit the
Museum of Pharmacy Albert Ciurana (15 avenue Charles Flahault) - to discover the history of the drug store or phamacy. The Faculty of Pharmacy students included Jules Emile Planchon (1823-1888), a professor in botany who discovered phylloxera which did so much damage to vines the world over, and desimated much of the vineyards of France.
Faculties of Theology and Law
Theology was taught in the convents of Montpellier, before being taught in the Faculties, (around 1350).
The Law faculty was closely associated the theology department, and one of its most important students was Petrarch from 1316-20, considered the father of Humanism and also the first tourist - as he travelled just for pleasure! The professors Montpellier were a major influence in the drafting of the Napoleonic Code, which much of French law and civil structures are based on.
University Montpellier 1
With more than 26,000 students, Montpellier 1 University has 7 university departments (UFR): Law, Economics, Business Administration, Medicine, Pharmacy, Odontology, Sports and Exercise Science and Technology
Also two institutes: the Institute of Business Science and Management and the Institute of Public Service Preparation
University Montpellier 2
With more than 15,000 students, Montpellier 2 University - primary studies are science and technology in 7 departments.
University Paul Valéry Montpellier 3
With over 16,000 students the Faculty of Letters, Arts, Languages and Social Sciences is the University of Montpellier 3
Montpellier - The Museums and Galleries
Immense collection of paintings, from 15th - 19th centuries - includes Flemish and Dutch artists including Breughel, Rubens, Ruisdael; European painters including Nicholas Poussin, Zurbaran, Bernini, Montpellier-born painter Bourdon; neoclassic paintings by Vernet, Greuze, David, and sculptures by Houdon, more Modern art by Gustave Courbet, Montpellier painter Frédéric Bazille, Matisse, Van Dongen, Delaunay, Dufy, and contemporary art of today. The decorative arts are well represented in Hôtel Sabatier d’Espeyran.
An interesting museum with pretty 17th century courtyard, with exhibitions of medieval items, furniture, and more recent decorative household element. Recent exhibitions have included glass work from over 3000 years, and Daily Life in 13th and 14th century Montpellier
Musée Atger and Anatomy Museum
This fine collection of drawings from the Flemish, Italian, Dutch, German and French Schools
was left to the Medical school by Xavier Atger, also includes work by Van Dyck and Rubens. On the first floor is the Anatomy museum, that attests to the fact Montpellier was one of the first universities to offer training in Medecine.
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