Perpignan (Catalan: Perpinyà) is the capital city of Rosselló and Northern Catalonia. Historically, it can be considered the capital of the county of Roussillon, the kingdom of Majorca, and the province of Roussillon.
It is divided into 6 cantons which serve as electoral districts: the 6th (Perpignan-1), 7th (Perpignan-2), 8th (Perpignan-3), 9th (Perpignan-4), 10th (Perpignan-5) and 11th (Perpignan-6), the communal territories of Bonpàs, Santa Maria la Mar and Vilallonga de la Salanca are included inside the 7th one, the one of Cabestany is within the 8th canton, the one of Cànoak in the 10th and the one of Toulouges in the 11th. These act as an electoral constituency for the elections to the General Council of the department of the Eastern Pyrenees, of which it is the prefecture.
In the last years the city has been promoted with the catchphrase Perpignan la Catalane / Perpinyà la Catalana. In 2008, the city was distinguished as the Capital of Catalan Culture.
On June 11, 2010, the municipal plenary approved, unanimously, the Municipal Charter for the Catalan language, which establishes Catalan as the official language of Perpignan, along with French.
Location and general characteristics of the territory
The commune of Perpignan, with an extension of 680,700 hectares (it is the second largest commune in Roussillon), is located in the center of the region and plain of Roussillon, although part of the territory may be considered as part of the adjacent sub-communes of the Riberal de la Tet and La Salanca. It is crossed by the Tet river, besides other water streams like the Bassa, coming from Aspres.
The commune of Perpignan extends on both sides of the Tet, in an alluvial area, which however includes the high terraces on the left bank of the river, where there ara, for example, the Llabanère Airport and some commercial and industrial areas, partly shared with the neighboring districts of Rivesaltes and Pia. It also includes some hills and ranges, which barely climb fifty meters above the plain. Some of these hills were exploited, at different times, for military defense purposes, such as the Ciutadella de Perpignan, Puig de Sant Jaume and Fort de Serrat d’en Vaquer, mainly.
The territory of Perpignan, initially much smaller, grew with the passage of time with the addition of the villages of El Vernet, Castell Roussillon, Malloles, San Galderic and Orla, as well as, the old Templar command of Bajoles, with its terrains.
The city of Perpignan
The oldest human settlement found, in the form of a city, in Roussillon is not the city of Perpignan itself, but the current site of Ruscino, located near the town of Castell Roussillon, in the eastern part of the commune of Perpignan. The name Roussillon must derive from it.
The town, later the city, of Perpignan was formed around two hills, the Puig and the Real, aside from the hill where the Palace of the Kings of Majorca is located, called Kings hill. Its location in the middle of a fertile plain, suitable for the development of agriculture and the market function that exerted from the first moment of the city of Perpignan ensured that already since the Middle Ages it was a center of communications and commercial exchange. Urban growth lead to the city progressively occupy the entire part of the alluvial plain on the right side of the Tet river, with its tributaries of La Bassa and El Ganganell, and, more modernly, the upper terraces on the left from the Tet, towards Rivesaltes, as well as, those from Levante, to the right of the river, towards Cabestany and Canet de Rosselló. See here more history of the city
Fragment of the preserved wall
Early on, it was a sanctuary formed around the parochial church of Saint John the Baptist that defined the first medieval Perpignan; Its space currently occupied by the buildings surrounding the current cathedral (the layout of the old wall can still be observed largely in the layout of the streets); It was a walled enclosure, the first of the various that Perpignan had throughout the centuries. Following the proposal of James I the Conqueror, the district of Sant Jaume was added, initially outside the walls, on the hill that dominated the town of Perpignan on the east side.
Already in the 13th century, the walled area was enlarged, while the old castle that dominated the town on the south side became the Palace of the Kings of Majorca. The evolution of urban growth is described below. In 1300, the parishes and subsequent districts of Santa Maria, later known as the Real, were created, which on the 6th of October 1381, welcomed the augustinian canons of Santa Maria d’Espirà from the Aglí, and of Saint Mathieu. Each of these three new churches crowned one of the four existing hills around the primitive village, on the fourth there was the castle, then converted into the Palace of the Kings of Majorca, around which the Ciutadella de Perpigan was built in the 17th century.
The walled city, largely disappeared, but widely documented, took a century and half to complete. The second existing enclosure, after the original shrine, protected only the current district of Sant Joan. Starting from the back of the church, where the Portal de l’Eixugador was, it followed the current streets of Saint-Dominique Bastion, Manche, Botiga de l’Oli (now-Foy), it reached the square of Rigaud, where there was the Gate of Elna, it continued through the streets of the Carpenters (Rue de la Fusterie) and Fishmongers (Rue de la Poissonneire), to the Rue Porte d’Assaut, where there was the first Malloles Gate, approaching Pont d’en Vestit, it turned into the current Place of François Aragó, where the Portal del Turó or Toró was, and followed the Basse stream until Castellet, which was the Gate of Vernet or of Our Lady. In addition to the aforementioned, there was also the Matadoró Portal.
There is nothing left of this wall that would show how very thick it was, protected by semicircular towers and with a powerful moat, filled with the waters from Malloles canal on one side, and the Bassa river and Canal of the Vernet on the other. There is also nothing left, except for the chapel of Sant Joan Vell, of the buildings that it contained.
First enlargement was carried out in the days of the Kingdom of Majorca, or Mallorques as is often documented. At that time, the walled town of Perpignan, between the main gates and posters, had up to thirteen entryways: Portal de les Comes, Portal de Sant Martí, Portal de la Trilla, or de la Blanqueria, Portalet de la Trilla , Portal del Turó or del Pes, Portalet del Turó d’en Ribesaltes, Portal del Vernet, Ribesaltes or Albenxa, Portal del Eixugador, or Els Banys, Portal del Solatge, or dels Jueus, Portal d’en Ballester, Miranda or Puig, Portal de Canet, Portal de Elna and Portal de Bages.
Neighborhoods of Perpignan by online excursion
The structure of medieval Perpignan shows an urban organization around its original parishes: Saint John, later it became a cathedral and was initially outside the walls, Saint James, which included the streets of the old Jewish Quarter of Perpignan, the Real and San Mateo. Inside the walled enclosure of the town there were also the neighborhoods of the Moneda and Angel.
This enclousere, which disappeared in 1904, is recognized because at the site of the wall the current boulevards were made: Wilson, Joan Bourrat, Aristide Briand, Poincaré and Mercader. It has a half-moon shape at the foot of the Castle of Perpignan. The first enlargment of the city, then still a town, was set outside the walls on the left bank of the Bassa river: it included the Faubourg de les Blanqueries and Vila Nova, which over time became Vilanova. It should be said that a large part of the ancient suburbs, formed outside the town, around the walls, disappeared with the demolition of the walls during the first years of the 20th century, and the urbanization of the space that became free.
The great growth of Perpignan did not occur until the 19th century, shortly before the demolition of the medieval wall of the town in 1904, only the Ciutadella, which contains the Palace of the Kings of Majorca, is preserved from that time. At that time the districts of Muralles formed (the Remparts and the two Lluneta ones, the Canet and the one of the Rec, or Elna) all around the defensive elements, as well as the districts of the Station (La Gara), which linked the old town with the Perpignan and Mercat stations, from the right bank of the Tet, while the old village of Sant Aciscle was also beginning to develop, also in the direction of the station, joining Perpignan, in the late 19th century.
Already in the 20th century, the city continued to spread through the districts of the Teuleries (old brickyards), the Campo del Rey, the Campo de Marte, the Velodrom, the Quatre Casals, the new Vernet neighborhoods: the Stone Bridge, the Pont Roig, Baix Vernet, Vernet Mitjà and Alt Vernet, the old Vernet village with the extension of Sant Aciscle towards the west, with the residential area of La Garrigola. At the same time, the streets of the Prada Route, the Bonpàs Route and the Tuïr Route were created along the roads leaving the city.
The accelerated growth of the last third of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st century saw the consolidation of new neighborhoods, in Sant Aciscle, those of the Ciutat dels Castors and that of Alberes, the residential arae of Mas Pradal between Garrigola and La Garrigola Route of Prada, and the new neighborhoods created by the residential araes of blocks of flats of those years: Sagrat Cor, Vernet Mitjà, Sant Martí, Balears, Molí de Vent, Universitat, Camí de la Passió Vella, Passejada, Sant Vicenç, Coves and el Balcó. At the same time, the old town of Orla was united to the urban area, mainly through its wide streets characteristic of the industrial zones.
The neighborhood of Sant Joan is the oldest in the old town of Perpinyà, the first one formed. It is located on the flattest and lowest part, near the Tet river. Most of the historic buildings are located there: the Cathedral of Sant Joan, the Loge de Mer, the old Palace of Justice (fr. L’ancien palais de justice), the Town Hall (Mairie), the last three are on the Place de la Loge, formerly called Place dels Rics Hòmens, or the Consulat de la mer. Close by, there is the cathedral, slightly further north-east, in the place where the primitive cellar of the town was created.
It communicates the street of Saint Jean and the Plaça de les Armes, now called Place Léon Gambetta. Most of the street names in this neighborhood reflect the administrative and commercial history of the old village of Perpinyà: Merchants, Argenterie (Silversmiths), Abeuradors, Feu (Fire), Font Freda, Pressoir (Press), Blacksmiths, Goldsmiths, Temple, Nouvelle Fusterie (currently, simply Fusterie – Carpenters), the Agustins, the Cloche d’Or (Gold bell), Poissonnerie (Fishmongers) … It was also the neighborhood of wool spinners, sellers and craftsmen.
At the north end of the Sant Joan district there is the Castellet, the old portal of Vernet de les Muralles, with the door of Our Lady, constructed later then the main building. Other notable buildings in this neighborhood are: Casa Julià, from the 14th to 15th centuries, on Fabriqués den Nebot Street, Casa de Bernat Xanxo, on Main de Fer Street, from 16th century, the old Palau de les Corts, on the Plaça dels Orfebres, currently the headquarters of Red Cross, among others. On the street of Émile Zola there is Casa Pams, remarkable Modernist building that houses the Municipal Library, and the former University of Perpignan. The Rigau Museum in Casa Lazerme is on Àngel Street and the Municipal Theater is located on the República square, which stands on the site of the old Jesuits school. Barra Street, south of the Palace of Justice and the Town Hall, preserves arcades from when it was one of the market places in the town. Outside of the neighborhood, on the site that was occupied by the walls, in the northeast, there is the Prefecture and the Hôtel de département.
Also, the no longer standing historical buildings should be considered: the first palace of the counts of Rosselló, which was located close to the church of Saint John, possibility to the north of the current cathedral; part of walls (possibly the apse of the 15th-century church of Saint John Bautista rose partially on the remains of the old palace); next to it, to the north of Saint John el Vell, there must have been the headquarters of the Hospitalers in Perpignan. The Hospitalers were the ones who created the Hospital of Saint John, which occupied the space where at the beginning of the 20th century the Cîté Bartissol was built. This hospital was founded in 1116 by the counts of Rosselló and entrusted to the monks – Knights of Saint John (order created in 1050 to serve a hospital in Jerusalem). Initially outside the walls of the parish, it was soon included in the enclosure determined by the medieval wall of Perpignan.
Third now gone building was the House of the Temple, a true walled castle inside the town, with a small fortified enclosure, called Coronell, with the house of the order, the church of Santa Maria (also gone) and some houses around. It belonged to the Templars, the second most important order in Roussillon. It was located in the southwestern part of the town, within the enclosure. Its location has not been definitely identified yet, but it must have been east of Temple Street (not the current Temple street, but the old one: now-called Mailly). Two locations have been suggested by historians: practically on the corner of the old Temple street with Tapat d’en Ribesaltes Street (now Alsace and Lorraine) and the square now called Jean Jaurès, in the south-east corner; The second suggested location is a bit more southwest, just north of the Cavallet alley, in the place where now there is the Palace of Lazerme, with the Art Museum of Rigau Jacint and where there was the residence of the Bishopric of Elna and Perpignan until a few years ago.
Another order located in the district of Sant Joan, posterior to those mentioned until now, was that of the Cistercian nuns of Font Freda, who arrived in the town of Perpignan, in 1244, and had their dwelling, of which nothing remains, at the street of Fontaine Froide, near the corner with the street of Three Kings (now Trois Journées street). The Order of the Temple was suppressed in 1307, and an important part of its possessions passed to the Hospitallers. For a long time Casa del Temple was the seat of the Royal Archive of the kings of Majorca.
The Society of Jesus was one of the important religious orders in the history of Perpignan. They had settled there in 1600, and in the first years they lived in extreme poverty, after buying a house in Rafael Alarigues. However, they soon had a pretty large territory, which corresponds to the current Municipal Theater and part of the Republic square where there was the convent, the church of Sant Llorenç, a cemetery and a garden. These dependencies opened to the Fruteria or Tapineria Street, and on to the Rue den Bou (streets that were suppressed as the Market Square was widened to become the Jesuit square after the Republic).
Starting from 1662 the Jesuits began teaching classes, in some cases competing with the university, where they were not well-regarded, especially because they acquired the rights to teach rhetoric, humanities and grammar, traditionally the privilege of universities. The rooms of the Jesuits school occupied the place where the theater now stands (the courtyard corresponded to the place where the stage and the pit of the orchestra are now). The rest of the units corresponded to what is now the southern third of the square. Jesuits were expelled in 1762, with which the university recovered all its rights.
Another of the religious orders in the neighborhood of San Juan was that of the Discalced Agustinians, who had here the Santa Mònica chapel, now partly conserved inside a night bar located at the bottom of the alley in front of the back door of the Justice Palace. They were called to Perpignan in 1642 by King Louis XIII to serve in hospitals, quarters and the army. In 1649 they obtained the royal authorization for their definitive establishment. They settled in the street of the Eula (now, of the Barra), with an entrance on the street of the Seamstresses (now, Cloche d’Or). Most of its premises correspond to those of the old school called Cloche d’Or.
On the borders with the neighborhoods of La Real and Sant Jaume, on Plaça del Blat, nowadays Jacint Rigau, there had been the Benedictine priory, later Cistercian, of San Guillem, depending on Santa Maria de Vallbona. It was located on a street formerly called San Guillem, in the surroundings of the current Jacint Rigau Square, probably in the place where later there was the Protestant Temple and the Job Exchange Office. It also had a hospital, depending on St. Guillem, where the monks of Vallbona were integrated for a certain period of time. Hostal de la Creu was located behind the chapel of this priory. At present there are no remains of it.
Another convent located in this neighborhood is that of Santa Maria de l’Eula. The Cistercian monks from this monastery came from Santa Maria de l’Eula, of Soler, from where they fled because of attack and partial destruction of the monastery of Soler, caused by the French in 1285. Once they abandoned their first lodging, they settled in Perpignan in the chapel of Sant Narcís, on the street nowadays called l’Eula, between it and the one of the Fruteria (currently Mirabeau). In 1567 the monastery was ceded to Cistercian monks, after relocating to other convents the last three nuns. There are no remains of the monastery of Eula, as it was destroyed in the French Revolution.
The Vila Nova and the Stone Bridge
Already in the Middle Ages, two small canals were formed in the parish of Sant Joan, initially outside the walls. Industries were established there that due to the smells represented a nuisance to the population. Thus, in front of the village, northwest and across the Bassa river, the tannery district was created, and on the south side of the Stone Bridge, that of the dyers. They followed the path of the Vernet, Salses and, eventually, Narbona and Montpellier. On the southern side from the Pedra Bridge there was a small neighborhood with the now gone church of the Virgen del Pont, which served those two neighborhoods. For some years, in the second half of the 14th century to the last third of the 16th century, the neighborhood of Virgen del Pont also housed the convent of the Great Augustinians. Later, in 1580, near the Virgen del Pont, on the right bank of the Tet river, the Capuchin convent settled, which disappeared in 1639 due to the expansion of the town’s defenses, which affected the neighborhood of the Virgen del Pont. Its location must have been in the vicinity of Avenue of General Leclerc and the current bus station.
In this place, towards 1575, the fourth and last seat of the lazaretto of Perpignan was located. Both neighborhoods were included within the walls of Vauban, of the 17th century, thus reinforcing the stretch of medieval wall between the Castellet and the Burges Bastion (the current Aragón Square) with a fortified fortress in the style of those of Vauban, whose function was to keep the potential attacks of Perpignan on the right side of the Tet river, away from the Bassa.
The fact that the tannery district was relatively small and, on the other hand, the work planned by Vauban had a considerable extension meant that for many years most of Vila Nova had large urbanized gardens following the style of the French garden. At the moment the neighborhood is almost entirely urbanized, but in the southwestern part there is a large open space, just on the limits of the site occupied by the walls of Vila Nova, where currently there is the Plaça de Catalunya, with one of the most emblematic buildings of Perpignan: the former warehouses of Aux Dames de France, currently occupied by a large company selling books and audiovisual media. Near this building, in the place of Jean Payra, there is the Catalan bookshop, aimed at promoting Catalan culture in Northern Catalonia.
La Real, or Sant Salvador
To the south of the district of Sant Joan, going up to the castle, you can find the old district of San Salvador, or Real, around the old parish of Santa Maria de la Real, which became home to the augustinian canons of Santa Maria d’Espirà del Aglí when they abandoned their convent in that town, in 1381. It had been founded in 1300 as the parish of the Royal Castle, with the rank of augustinian canonist: for this reason after a few years it welcomed the canons from Espiritu de l’Aglí. In the 17th century this church was stripped of the porch and portal, which were brought to the church of Sant Jaume. Inside this parish there is the Museum of Natural History, now in the Sagarriga House, on the Fontaine Neuve Street. There is also the former Prison of Perpinyà, formerly the convent of Santa Clara, located just outside the neighborhoods of La Real and Saint-Mathieu.
There is little documentation about the original settlers of this neighborhood, but it seems that an important number were farmers although there were also some tradesman, as evidenced by the names of some of the streets (for example, the old name of the Rue Grande la Real was Freneria). The same neighborhood had some farmhouses preserved until very late, such as the Mas den Lune (it’s name survives deformed on Rue de la Lune) and Mas den Capeller. The Order of the Friars of the Penance of Jesus Christ was installed in the former district of La Real, from 1259. The order was dissolved in 1274, at the Second Council of Lyon, but the friars remained in Perpignan until 1299. In 1301, King Jaume II of Majorca bought buildings and land, which was transferred to the city for the build of the new parish of La Real, which owes its name, precisely, to this royal intervention in its creation.
In the northwest corner of the neighborhood, near that of Saint-Mathieu, there was the convent of Santa Caterina de Siena. It was located on the street of Avellanet, shortly after called Rue Sainte-Caterine. It was established in Perpignan in 1612, but it led a precarious existence throughout its entire time. It was an establishment of charity and education, as it was dedicated to female pension tasks. Its chapel was dedicated, like the convent, to Saint Catherine of Siena.
Sant Jaume del Puig
The district of Sant Jaume is east, both in regard to Sant Joan and the Real. This neighborhood initially was outside the walls, with the streets of the old Jewish quarter. It is on the slopes of Puig dels Teixidors or Hortolans (weavers or gardeners – trades that were very widespread in that place: both denominations appear in medieval documents). In addition to many of the members of these two unions, on the northwest side of the hill, the Jewish quarter was established, created in 1243 by James I the Conqueror, nowadays it is remembered by the Call street, the main street of this sector. This hill, however, is best known as Puig de Sant Jaume, as its parochial church, Sant Jaume, which is located in the highest point of the neighborhood.
It was built after 1244, on the request of Jaume I, in a work led by the king himself, in order to promote the growth of the town of Perpignan. The same layout of many of the streets, straighter and forming a more regular network, shows a preconceived attitude to urbanize the space. Although not stated in documents, the name of the parish and the district is undoubtedly connected to the king who was its main promoter.
The church of Sant Jaume was affected, several times, by the wars and sieges suffered by the city. Its gothic bell tower was destroyed by the French in 1545, the current tower dates to 1846, and was built reflecting the original one. One of the portals of the church comes from Santa Maria de la Real. At the time of the reform of the walls of Perpignan carried out by Vauban, next to the west side of the church, at the same level (the summit of Puig de Sant Jaume, Teixidors or Leprosos) an imposing military barracks, the Quarter of Sant Jaume, was built, which is still preserved today, but serving as a social housing.
In the zone of contact with the neighborhood of La Real, but still inside Sant Jaume, there also was the convent of canons of Sant Salvador. Between Sant Jaume and Sant Domènec there were other monastic orders installed, such as the Minimes (monks of the order founded by Saint Francis of Paola) and the Discalced Carmelites. The southern part of the neighborhood was greatly affected by the construction of the Ciutadella of Perpignan, in the 17th century. On the other hand, with the confiscation of ecclesiastical goods resulting from the French Revolution all these monastic assemblies became military quarters, until the second half of the 20th century, when they were abandoned by the army and passed into the city council, except those located in the rectum of Ciutadella, which still belong to the military today.
Apart from the hospital of Sant Joan, mentioned in the previous section, Perpignan in the medieval period had a lazaretto led by the Hospital de Sant Llàtzer friars, which was installed under the rule of Saint Augustine in the 12th century. As illness was banned by medieval society, the hospitals had to be located outside the village. The first lazaretto hospital was located where the convent of Sant Domènec now stands. When the Dominicans settled, lazaretto was moved to a place outside the newly built walled enclosure, near Sant Jaume, around the current Josep Cassanyes Square, where now the Sant Jaume market takes place. It was located there until shortly before 1285. This presence of the lazarettos (or leproses) near Puig de Sant Jaume meant that in some documents the hill is mentioned as Puig dels leprosos. There was another hospital in Sant Jaume: that of the weavers, with the Chapel of Our Lady of the Helpless. It was located at the northwest end of Plaça del Puig, on the corner with Rue d’en Calce.
At the top of this street, near the corner, there is still a carved stone with the image of this Virgin, remembering the location.
The convent of the Dominicans was created in Perpignan after the purchase, made by the same James I the Conqueror, of ancient lazaretto, already moved to the other end of the Saint James neighborhood. The buildings were ceded to Ponç de l’Esparra, in 1243, and to the Dominicans shortly after. It was a convent with ample spaces in its surroundings, hence its military reuse from the French Revolution granted the French army a magnificent place to locate barracks, recruitment centers, arsenal for the artillery, and so on. It must be considered that as the convent of the Minims also gained military use much of the Sant Jaume district became military barracks.
At the other end of the neighborhood, on the border with the neighborhood of La Real, in 1269, settled the order of the Carmelites, known as the Grans Carmes. In 1272, their cloister has already been built, at the same time Bernat Seba, from the circle of those close to the infant Jaume, future King John II of Majorca, asks to be buried there. The Clarisses also were present in the neighborhood, but outside the walls, in the northeast, in their fourth and fifth locations in Perpignan. Yet another order located its convent in this neighborhood: it was a split of the Franciscans, known as Friars Menors of the regular Franciscan Observance.
They had a convent behind a passage to a location outside the village, in the place still known as the passió Vella, it was destroyed in 1462, during the invasion of Louis XI of France. A papal bull of 1467 advised the construction of a new convent at the Colomina del Bisbe, behind the convent of the Carmes, near the gate of Elna and the Pou dels Ollers. At the end of that same century, however, the observance friars of Perpignan reintegrated to Franciscanism. They rejoined the Friars Menors Conventuals (the classical Franciscans) around 1496 or 1504, according to the authors.
The district currently has a population mainly composed of a mixture of Catalan speaking Romani people and Maghrebis. Although very close to popular commercial and tourist areas like the San Juan district, it generally has very poor building conditions and public space according to European standards, and has been classified as one of the “ghetto” neighborhoods within the French State, pending strong investments from the State Agency for Urban Renovation (ANRU).
The neighborhood of Saint-Mathieu closes, on the west side, the ancient enclosure of the town of Perpignan. It was built, as well as the neighborhood of La Real, on lands belonging to the Colomina of Pere Comte, of Salses, on the Plana dels Templers, an extensive territory that had been part of the lordship of the Templars of Fontcoberta, located to the west and south of the town and castle of Perpignan. The Templars had a fortified house inside the tow, near to what would later be the neighborhood of Saint-Mathieu, of which there seems to be nothing left. They participated actively in the urban development that generated the neighborhood. The parish of Saint-Mathieu was erected at the same time as the neighboring one of La Real, but its strategic location, on a hill to the west of the town and its lower part, caused it to be destroyed in 1639 and reconstructed shortly thereafter. This destruction was shared by a large number of houses in the surroundings of the church, which constituted its southernmost and highest, geographically speaking, area.
There is not much documentation about this neighborhood, but it seems that it was a neighborhood with low social extraction, with most of the day-to-day population, both of the city trades and farmers of the surroundings of Perpignan. There were also farmers from the garden areas between the town and Malloles. The antecedents of the neighborhood were two convents established successively in the same place, at the top of the current neighborhood. Firstly the convent of Sant Martí, located near the gate of the same name, which belonged to the Benedictine Order and was a priory depending on Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, dedicated to administering the goods of the Benedictines to La Plain of Rosselló. In1266 it was acquired by the Mercedarian friars, who located there their convent of La Merci.
The founder of the religious order, Sant Pere Nolasc, had also founded the house of La Merci in Perpignan in 1227, from a donation of Peter the Count of Sales to Colomina. There are some remains of it on Rue du Convent de la Merci, just south of Saint-Mathieu square. From 1286, next to the convent of La Merci, there is a record of the lazaretto of Perpinyà, in its third location in the village. The fear of the population towards the disease of leprosy was pushing the hospital to the periphery. It stayed in this place until the last third of the 16th century, when it moved near the Stone Bridge.
Another convent in the neighborhood of Saint-Mathieu was that of Saint Maria Magdalena, documented since 1298. According to its documentation, it was a Benedictine women’s priory destined to receive mainly repent prostitutes. It was founded by the generosity of Esclarmonde of Foix, wife of James II of Majorca. This convent received numerous donations destined first to poor women for marriage and later to repentant women, in the last years of the 13th century. Its church, almost entirely gone, has been documented since 1319. Nowadays the street of Santa Magdalena is conserved, formerly of the Repenetats, where this convent was located on the corner with rue des Agustins, some debris of it remain there. The community was dissolved in 1543 and, it is said that, in 1502 there were only four nuns left, for some years later it received the Clarisses, on one of its sites in Perpignan. The convent became a hospital, charitable, but not part of any religious order.
In 1387 the Hospital of Sant Antoni was founded in Perpinyà, in order to accommodate sick, poor and ravaged. Perhaps that is why it was built at the far west of the Saint-Mathieu district, near the Malloles Gate. It was led by the friars of the French order of St. Anthony of Vienna, Augustinian, also called the Antonitian hospitalers, which had been founded in 1050 in the Dauphiné region and settled in Perpignan in 1387, although donations were made to the patients or the hospital of Sant Antoni from 1279. The house of the Hospital of Sant Antoni, which operated in the 14th and 15th centuries, was at the far end of the town, beside the wall by the Gate of Malloles, where there is now the island of houses bounded by the street of Sant Francesc (nowadays, of Marshal Foch), the Boulevard of the Pyrenees and the streets of the Capcir and of Pierre Cartelet. Behind this convent there was the safranar of Jews.
The Antonian monastery was finally suppressed in 1777, and its property was transferred to the Order of Malta.
The house of the Franciscans in Perpignan, also called Frares Menors, has been documented since 1235, although a legend says that it was founded years before by the very St. Francis of Assisi in his supposed visit to Perpignan in 1211. The date of the foundation has always been very controversial, among the scholars of the subject, several years have been proposed, ranging between 1218 and 1249. Its initial installation was outside the village, at the foot of an important road of Malloles and Tuïr. Before the passing of a century, however, it was already within the walled area of the town, through the creation of the new neighborhoods, including that of Saint-Mathieu.
The convent of the Frares Menors was affected by the subsequent confiscations of the French Revolution, and a big part of it became a large military hospital. In the convent there was also a church of St. Francis of Assisi, now completely gone.
The Augustinians were another order that was present in the neighborhood of Saint-Mathieu, in its first and fourth zones (between those there were Vernet and the Stone Bridge). The convent of the Augustinians had been created in the last years of the 13th century at the Colomina of Pere Comte de Salses, near where there was the first church of Saint-Mathieu (in the area of the crossroads of the Gran de Sant Mateu street, presently called Dugommier, with Etroite street). The Augustinians returned to the neighborhood in 1542, they moved to the old convent of the Repenedides (of Santa Magdalena), which was discussed in the previous paragraph.
The current street of the Augustinians takes its name from their presence in this place between 1542 and 1790. The Augustinian enlarged the old convent of Santa Maria Magdalena, and they built the church of Our Lady of Grace, respecting the old church of Santa Magdalena. The new church of the Augustinians, of which there is hardly anything left, was on the island of houses bordered by the streets of the Agustins, Santa Magdalena, Dom Brial and, without reaching it the Saint-Mathieu.
Castell or Ciutadella de Perpignan, or Palace of the Kings of Majorca
The old Castell de Perpignan, a part of which was transformed in the 13th century into the Palace of the Kings of Majorca, was reformed and transformed into Ciutadella de Perpignan in the 16th and 17th centuries, by Vauban. It is located on a hill that dominated the town, now the city of Perpignan, from the south. The medieval castle, which was converted into the Royal Palace, is the square building that crowns the complex. The military quarter was formed by the set of buildings located to its east side, and the citadel, work of Vauban, is the set of fortifications in the star form that surrounds the castle and quarter.
Museums and art galleries
Art Gallery – À Cent Metres Du Centre Du Monde (100 meters from the center of the world)
● Contemporary Art Center of Walter Benjamin
● Catalan Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, Casa Pairal, in the Castellet
● Museum of coins and medals Josep Puig
● Museum of Natural History of Perpignan
● Jacint Rigau Art Museum
● Aviation Museum of Perpignan
Popular and traditional culture
● Giants. In Perpignan there are giants figures that represent Jaume II of Majorca or Esclarmonda de Foix and Cardona, as well as a giant with a prince crown.
● Esbarts (cat. traditional dancers group). In 1955 the Catalan Youth Ballet was created.
● Castellers. In Perpignan there have been many castell performances. The largest and most important human tower built in the city is the 3 de 9 amb folre (9 storey with 3 people at the base for each level) made by the Minyons of Terrassa on June 27, 1998.
● Diables (Devils). Group of Demons of Perpignan.
● The cathedral of Perpignan
● The Cloister – cemetery of San Juan, known by the italianism “Campo Santo”
● The church of Saint-Jean le Vieux
● The church of Saint-Jacques
● The church of Notre-Dame de la Réal
● The church of Saint-Mathieu
● The convent of the Dominicans
● The convent of the Carmelites, called the Carmes
● The convent of the Minims
● The convent of the Clarisses
● The Castillet, former prison, today Catalan Museum of arts and popular traditions.
● The Palace of the Kings of Majorca.
● La Llotja de Mar (the first maritime court in the world).
● The City Hall. It was built in the 13th century and extended in the 15th. The renaissance interior courtyard is porticoed, with some wrought iron fences closing its access. Inside the courtyard there is a bronze sculpture by Maillol “La Mediterrània”. Inside, the wedding hall has a artesonado from the 15th century. On the facade, finished with stones, we can highlight three bronze arms.
● The Palace of the Diputacion. It was built in 1454 in the so-called Placa del Pa to be the Roussillon’s seat of the permanent representation of the Deputation of the General or Generalitat. Work of the architect Marc Safont, who had participated in the construction of the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya. The building, as of 1659, was occupied first by the sovereign council of the Rosellón and later by the Palace of Justice. In 1866 it was integrated to the city council. With regard to the exterior, the building is made with carved stone with trefoil windows that rest on columns and capitals with leaf motifs.
● Casa Julià, of Catalan Gothic style, it is one of the few medieval houses in Perpignan.
● The Archipel Theater
Other places of interest
● Llotja Square (in French Place de la Loge). It is the animation center of the city. It is adorned with a Venus by Maillol and the Rue de la Loge, street paved with pink marble, begins at the square.
On this square there are the Llotja de Mar, the Palace of the Diputació and the City Hall.
● Plaça François Arago: Located beside La Bassa, a tributary of the Tet river, it is surrounded by palm trees and magnolias. On it there is a statue of Francesc Joan Domènec Arago (1786-1853) from Estagell (district of Perpignan).
● Promenade des Platanes: It is a walk shaded by large platanus and some palms on the side paths. It was built during the First French Empire (1804-1814) in order to give the people of Perpignan a recreation place outside the walls.
Shopping in Perpignan
Being a touristy city and having interesting pedestrian areas, Perpignan is a good place for shopping. Among the main shopping areas in Perpignan are:
Rue Paratilla: this narrow and picturesque street is one of the most dynamic places in Perpignan with various products for sale. Rue Sant-Vicens is one of the best areas to buy the finest Catalan and French pottery, furniture and carpets, while rue des Anges or rue Alsace Lorraine have many boutiques with TOP luxury brands, offering an interesting choice of designer clothes.
Galeries Lafayette, a world known French department store, is situated on 1 Place de la Résistance. Opening hours: Monday – Friday 9:30 am – 7:45 pm, Saturday 9:30 – 8:00 pm
Place République is where the main food market is. Working hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 7:30am-1:30pm. Rue de la Poissonnerie, where fish sellers offer their products, is also interesting for visiting.
Among other street markets: famous Flea Market, held every Sunday on Avenue Palais des Exposition; the Art Market, every first Saturday on Allées Maillol; the Brocant Market, every Saturday at the same place or, finally, the bio market every Saturday on Place Rigaud.
Cuisine and restaurants in Perpignan
There are more than 15 restaurants classified by Michelin stars. Among the most famous: La Passerelle (1 COURS FRANÇOIS PALMAROLE), La Galinette (23 RUE JEAN-PAYRA), Le Boudoir (4 RUE JACQUES MANUEL), Le Divil (9 RUE FABRIQUES-D’EN-NABOT), Vietnam (54 BOULEVARD ARISTIDE BRIAND), Via del Vi (43 AVENUE DU GÉNÉRAL-LECLERC), Le Garriane (15 RUE VALETTE), Villa Duflot (AVENUE CHARLES DEPERET, ROND POINT ALBERT DONNEZAN).
How to get to Perpignan?
The Perpignan station is a railway link that connects all the lines of train of the North of Catalonia, with the exception of the Càtar train of Rivesaltes. Specifically, the Perpignan Station, the only railway station in the city, serves:
line 1 in the direction of Montpellier, Marseilles and Avinyó
line 2 to Toulouse and Portbou
line 12 to Vilafranca de Conflent, and by extension, the Yellow Train
in addition to the long-haul trains such as the Talgo to Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante and Cartagena, the Trenhotel between Barcelona, Zurich and Milan, the TGV to Paris and Brussels, and the Corail trains with destinations to Paris, Strasbourg and Metz. It also has a cargo line to Thuir, and in the near future it will have the new LAV Perpinyà-Figueres line with which it will be linked to Barcelona at High Speed.
Through the Llabanère Airport, located north of Perpignan’s conurbation, the city connects with regular flights with Paris-Orly, London-Stansted, Birmingham and Manchester, among others.
From Andorra: N145, N260, N116
From Barcelona (tolls): AP7, A9
From Toulouse (tolls): A61, A9
Area: 68.07 sq. km
Coordinates: 42°41′55″N 2°53′44″E
Language: French, Catalan
Time: Central European UTC +1