Narbonne ― with Gallo/Roman origins

Narbonne Town Hall


"The southern crossroads of Europe" so read the signs when you arrive by car. This slogan is just as valid today as it was during Roman times when the town was founded.

Narbonne is the oldest Roman colony on Gallic soil and was founded in 118 BC at the meeting point of the routes for Aquitaine, Spain and Italy. Hence it gained a significance that it might not otherwise have had. It became the seat of a powerful Archbishop, and it is amongst the remaining buildings his palace that you will find the town hall (and the tourist office).

< Narbonne Town Hall

A small section of this ancient road has been uncovered in the square in front of the town hall, you can still see the ruts made by the wagon wheels over two thousand years ago, and ponder upon what those wagons carried and to where. (Interestingly the width between these ruts is 4'8½" (1m43) which was the gauge adopted for the railways in Britain, the USA, and many other countries, but that's another story!).

The tower on the extreme left of the above photograph, (behind the water fountain), is the 'Donjon Gilles Aycelin' (built 1295-1306) and the walls contain some carved stones from another building, probably much earlier.
Some details of the carved stones >
Behind these walls lie the main courtyard and beyond, the cloisters and the cathedral, which was never finished. In fact they only ever built the nave, the unfinished transept of St.Eutrope stands testament to the decline that Narbonne suffered towards the end of the 14th century, caused in part by wars and in part by epidemics. During the French Revolution the seat of the Archbishop was withdrawn and it was not to be until the arrival of the railways at the end of the nineteenth century that Narbonne's fortunes would recover. Today, Narbonne is a medium sized town which has a go-ahead leadership in the Mayor and his staff, and which has built hugely on tourism, partly the enormous interest in holidays on the canal which passes through the very heart of the town under a bridge which dates from Roman times, and partly on the vast wealth of Roman remains such as the bridge and the Via Domitia (the ancient Roman road to Spain) which crosses it. The bridge is still lined with shops as it would have been in Roman times.
Carved stones
Canal de la Robine
The canal beneath this bridge is the canal de la Robine, and joins Narbonne to Port La Nouvelle, this connection permitted Narbonne to become one of the major Mediterranean ports during the 12thcentury.

In the other direction the canal connects with the Aude river (formally the "Atax") and then, via the canal de Jonction, to the Midi Canal, which in turn joins Toulouse and S├Ęte.

Alongside the canal in the town centre are Les Halles, a covered market open every morning of everyday of the year, except Christmas day, for the sale of local fresh produce. Cheeses, Fish, Vegetables, Fruit and Meat in abundance.

On the Townhall, there is a Webcam which gives a general view of the square in front of the townhall, and in the centre is the exposed section of the old Roman road, the "Via Domitia".

Narbonne is also supposed to be the birthplace of St.Sebastian, and there is a small church dedicated to him not far from the town hall.


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