Saint-Lizier (fr. Saint Lizier), located above the Salat river at the foot of the Cuseran mountains (montagnes du Couserans), only 8 kilometers from Saint-Girons, is perhaps the richest historical heritage of the Department Ariege.
This area is also famous for its beautiful valleys and picturesque mountains.
Some historians believe that the city of Saint-Lizier was founded by Pompey in 72 BC. 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.
Anyway, Saint-Lizier throughout its history was an important religious center of the region.
It is known that 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, as well as carved stones, elements of church walls made of marble, and 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. 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 to recognize Saint-Lizier as 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 into two separate parts: in the lower part there is an old village, spread out around the Cathedral of Saint Lizier, and 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 first is actually the Cathedral of Saint-Lizier, the second is Notre-Dame de la Sède (fr. Notre-Dame de la Sède).
The chapel of Notre Dame de la Sede used to serve as a chapel in a psychiatric hospital.
Saint-Lizier Cathedral is a small cathedral with an octagonal tower, a balcony and carved stone decorations at the top of the columns. Inside the cathedral there is a large number of ancient (11th century) frescoes. Here, in the sacristy, you can see the treasury of the bishops of Couserans, as well as the bust of Saint Lisieu.
The existence of two congregational churches persisted until Bishop Bernard de Marmisse (fr. Bernard de Marmiesse), who was in power from 1654 to 1680. 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, you can go to the Croix de Pouterolles cross, from where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Pyrenees mountains.
In addition, in the city you can 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 are 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 Saint-Lizier is not a priority on the tourist program. Only on weekends city bazaars and fairs, which traditionally take place on weekends or on some public holidays in the main square, can be of tourist interest. At the fairs, in particular, you can come across exclusive products grown in the region. Among them are some well-known wine and cheese brands in France.
How to get to?
Shortest distances by car:
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
Area: 9.01 sq. km
Coordinates: 43°00′10″N 1°08′15″E
Languages: French, Occitan
Time: Central European UTC +1