Saint-Lizier – the richest historical heritage of the department of Ariege

Saint-Lizier (fr. Saint Lizier), located above the Salat River at the foot of the Cuseran mountains (montagnes du Couserans) and only 8 kilometers from Saint-Girons, is perhaps the richest historical heritage of the Department Ariège (Occitania, France, Pyrenees).

This area is also famous for its beautiful valleys and picturesque mountains.


Some historians believe that the city of Saint-Lizier was founded, in 72 BC, by Pompey. Others claim that the city was built as a Roman Oppidum (temporary fortress city of the Roman Empire period) in the third century BC. There is a third point of view, according to which the city was founded in 120 BC. and was inhabited by Couserans.

Saint-Lizier, throughout its history, was an important religious center of the region.

The Couserans were ruled by the Romans until the beginning of the fifth century, and then passed under the power of the Franks . Saint-Lizier retained important remains of Gallo-Roman fortifications in the region (e.g., carved stones, elements of marble church walls). The Roman city wall, more than 700 m long, was bordered by six semi-circular towers in the south and six square towers in the north.

The first bishop to the cousin was Saint Valère; the second, Glycerius – who went down in history because he participated in the Council of Agde (concile d’Agde), chaired by Archbishop Arles Saint Cesaria in 506 – and the third was Théodore, who became famous for his oratorical talent.

However, the city owes its name to the fifth Bishop of Lycéry (Lycérius), who – after his death in 747 – received the name of Saint Lisieu.

Historians agree that Saint-Lizier was the oldest episcopal throne of Ariège, where for all the time 77 bishops have replaced the authorities (with vacancies from 1574 to 1581).

Tourism, attractions and what to see

Saint-Lizier is divided in two: in the lower part, there is an old village, spread out around the Cathedral of Saint Lizier; in the upper part, surrounded by ancient fortifications, is the Episcopal Palace. Interesting fact: Saint-Lizier is one of the rare cities that had two cathedral churches: the Cathedral of Saint-Lizier; the second Notre-Dame de la Sède (fr. Notre-Dame de la Sède).

The chapel of Notre Dame de la Sède used to serve as a chapel in a psychiatric hospital.

Saint-Lizier Cathedral is small, with an octagonal tower, a balcony and carved stone decorations at the top of the columns. Inside, there are many ancient (11th century) frescoes; in the sacristy, you can see the treasury of the bishops of Couserans, as well as the bust of Saint Lisieu.

There existed two congregational churches until the 1654 to 1680 rule of Bishop Bernard de Marmisse (fr. Bernard de Marmiesse), who was in power from. In 1655, he united both churches, retaining the rule of Notre-Dame de la Sed as a cathedral adjoining the episcopal palace.

This situation remained until the revolution, which led to the disappearance of the diocese.

The Bishop’s Palace in Saint-Lizier is currently the departmental museum of Ariège with archaeological artifacts, a variety of objects and paintings from this region as well as various temporary exhibitions. Entrance fee is around 5 euros.

From the bishop’s palace, go to the Croix de Pouterolles cross, where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Pyrenees mountains.

In the city, visit the pharmacy of the 18th century, where you can see medical equipment and items of that period.

Since 1998, Saint-Lizier and its main monuments have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Like Toulouse, Rocamadour, Conques or Cirque Gavarnie, Saint-Lizier is one of the 25 main attractions of the Southern Pyrenees and is considered a treasure of the Ariege collection.


Shopping in not a top draw for Saint-Lizier tourists; however, in the main square, city bazaars and fairs, which traditionally take place on weekends or on some public holidays, can be of tourist interest. At the fairs, you will come across exclusive products grown in the region; among them are some well-known wine and cheese brands.

How to get to?

Shortest distances by car:

From Paris (tolls): 7 hr 50 min (772 km) via A20

From Biarritz (tolls): 2 h 34 min (264 km) via A64

From Dax (tolls): 2 h 27 min (231 km) via A64

From Nantes (tolls): 6 h 11 min (679 km) via A10 and A62

From Saumur (tolls): 6 h 13 min (638 km) via A10 and A62

From Bordeaux (tolls): 3 h 19 min (339 km) via A62

From La Rochelle (tolls): 5 h 1 min (516 km) via A62

From Toulouse (tolls): 1 h 19 min (98.4 km) via A64

From Carcassonne: 1 h 56 min (122 km) via D119 and D117

From Monaco (tolls): 6 h 16 min (616 km) via A8

From Nice (tolls): 6 h 4 min (593 km) via A8

From Cannes (tolls): 5 h 48 min (567 km) via A8

From Saint-Tropez (tolls): 5 h 47 min (539 km) via A9

From Marseille (tolls): 4 h 38 min (436 km) via A9

From Avignon (tolls): 3 h 58 min (363 km) via A9

From Montpellier (tolls): 3 h 16 min (275 km) via A9 and A61

From Béziers (tolls): 2 h 42 min (214 km) via A61

From Perpignan (tolls): 2 h 51 min (240 km) via A61

From Narbonne (tolls): 2 h 24 min (184 km) via A61

From Andorra (tolls): 2 h 26 min (143 km) via N20 and D117

Main information

Area: 9.01 sq. km

Coordinates: 43°00′10″N 1°08′15″E

Population: 1466

Languages: French, Occitan

Currency: euro

Visa: Schengen

Time: Central European UTC +1

See here Pyrenees travel guide

See here France travel guide

See here Spain travel guide

Read more: The cities of the Pyrenees and around with Andrew Morato ...