On Day 16 of Travel in France we took a break from countryside walking and visited Uzès, a town with a long and interesting history. The map below is from the Tourist Office and a good guide to exploring the town on foot.
Uzès originated as a Roman settlement at the source of the river Eure from which they built an aqueduct to Nîmes in 1BC. The best-known section is the Pont du Gard. The town was controlled by the Moors from Andalucia, it was a involved in the Wars of Religion, and it was a Bishopric. Once a walled town, wide boulevards crowded with cafes in the summer now encircle the town, a popular tourist destination which is classified as a ‘Town of Arts & History’.
There are many private mansions in the town, often with turrets and tower staircases, such as owned by the Dampmartin family of merchants. The town’s wealth came from the textile trade, and it was known for producing serge cloth and silk stockings. The Vincent Mills (closed 1936) was the last silk spinning mill in Uzès.
The Hotel de Joubert was a private mansion of the 15C.
The Place aux Herbes is a beautiful, arcaded square which is absolutely crowded on market days – this was the first time we had been able to see the arcades!
The Monastery of the Cordeliers (Franciscans) was built in the 17C and acquired by the Protestants a century later. The Wars of Religion and conflict between the Roman Catholics and Protestants disturbed France for centuries, dividing people and destroying buildings. Protestantism was particularly strong in the south, neverthess the Protestants who acquired the Monastery of the Cordeliers in the late 1700s felt their beliefs had to be kept secret.
The Eglise of St Etienne was built in 1767 on the site of a church destroyed during the Wars of Religion. The decoration on the outside is interesting.
The hospital was built in the 18C, outside the walls of the town in order to improve public health and living conditions an a cramped, walled Mediaeval city when land was donated for a ‘hospital for the poor’. The building was used as a hospital well into the 20C.
The town was a Bishopric from 5C to 1792. The original Cathedral of St Théodorit (1090) was destroyed during the Wars of Religion and rebuilt in 1632, only the Tour Fenestrelle remains from the 12C.
The Bishops of Uzès minted money in this Mediaeval building.
The Mediaeval Garden was created in 1995 in the courtyards of Raynon Castle, one of two castles in Uzes. The castles and their remaining towers perhaps symbolise the powers which dominated the town, and the country until the Revolution – King, aristocracy, and Church.
The Duke of Uzès is the premier title of France, coming immediately after Princes of the Royal Blood, and the family have held this title since 1632. Their home is the castle, the Duchy, in the centre of the town.
After lunch in a shaded square it was time to face the heat again and we set off cross-country to see Vézénobres.
You may be interested in
The Tourist Office for Uzès
The Duchy of Uzès, history and photographs
The Duke of Uzès
A brief history of the Cathedral and the organ – beautiful photograph of the organ
Visiting Uzès – a description
Uzès – interesting article with beautiful photographs
A good description, with photographs, of the recommended walk around the town
The Maison d’Uzès