Montauban

From Academic Kids

Montauban (Montalban in Occitan) is a town and commune of southwestern France, préfecture (capital) of the Tarn-et-Garonne département, 31 miles north of Toulouse.

The town, built mainly of a reddish brick, stands on the right bank of the Tarn River at its confluence with the Tescou.

Contents

History

With the exception of Mont-de-Marsan, Montauban is the oldest of the bastides of southern France. Its foundation dates from 1144 when Alphonse Jourdain, count of Toulouse, granted it a liberal charter. The inhabitants were drawn chiefly from Montauriol, a village which had grown up around the neighbouring monastery of St Théodard.

In the 13th century the town suffered much from the ravages of the Albigensians and from the Inquisition, but by 1317 it had recovered sufficiently to be chosen by John XXII as the head of a diocese of which the basilica of St Théodard became the cathedral.

In 1360, at the Treaty of Brétigny, it was ceded to the English; they were expelled by the inhabitants in 1414. In 1560 the bishops and magistrates embraced Protestantism, expelled the monks, and demolished the cathedral. About ten years later it became one of the Huguenot strongholds, and formed a small independent republic. It was the headquarters of the Huguenot rebellion of 1621, and was vainly besieged by Louis XIII for eighty-six days; nor did it submit until after the fall of La Rochelle in 1629, when its fortifications were destroyed by Cardinal Richelieu. In the same year over six thousands inhabitants died of the plague. The Protestants again suffered persecution after the repeal of the Edict of Nantes.

Sights

Its fortifications have been replaced by boulevards beyond which extend numerous suburbs, while on the left bank of the Tarn is the suburb of Villebourbon, which is connected with the town by a remarkable bridge of the early 14th century. This bridge is known as Pont Vieux (i.e. "Old Bridge"). King Philip the Fair of France officially launched the building of the bridge in 1303 while on a tour to Toulouse. The project took 30 years to complete, and the bridge was inaugurated in 1335. The main architects were Étienne de Ferrières and Mathieu de Verdun. It is a pink brick structure over 205 meters (224 yards) in length, but while its fortified towers have disappeared, it is otherwise in good preservation. The bridge was designed to resist the violent floods of the Tarn River, and indeed it withstood successfully the two terrible millenial floods of 1441 and 1930. The bridge is a straight level bridge, which is quite unusual for Medieval Europe, where lack of technological skills meant that most bridges were humpback bridges.

The Musée Ingres, on the site of a castle of the Counts of Toulouse and once the residence of the bishops of Montauban, stands at the east end of the bridge. It belongs chiefly to the 17th century, but some portions are much older, notably an underground chamber known as the Hall of the Black Prince (Salle du Prince Noir). It comprises most of the work (including his "Jesus among the Doctors") of Jean Ingres, the celebrated painter, whose birth in Montauban is commemorated by an elaborate monument. It is the largest museum of Ingres paintings in the world. The museum also contains some sculptures by famous sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, another native of Montauban, as well as collections of antiquities (Greek vases) and 18th and 19th ceramics .

The Place Nationale is a square of the 17th century, entered at each corner by gateways giving access to a large open space surrounded by pink brick houses carried on double rows of arcades.

The préfecture is located in the palace built by the intendant of Montauban (the equivalent of a préfet before the French Revolution), and is an elegant 18th century large mansion, built of pink bricks and white stones, with a steep roof of blue gray slates, in a style marrying northern and southern French styles of architecture.

The chief churches of Montauban are the cathedral, remarkable only for the possession of the "Vow of Louis XIII", one of the masterpieces of Ingres, and the church of St Jacques (14th and 15th centuries), dedicated to Saint James of Compostela, the façade of which is surmounted by a handsome octagonal tower, the base of which is in Romanesque style, while the upper levels, built later, are in Gothic style.

Economy

The commercial importance of Montauban is due rather to its trade in agricultural produce, horses, game and poultry, than to its industries, which include nursery-gardening, cloth-weaving, cloth-dressing, flour-milling, wood-sawing, and the manufacture of furniture, silk-gauze and straw hats.

Demographics

Population:

1906: town, 16,813; commune, 28,688
1999: 51,800

Transportation

The town is a railways junction, and communicates with the Garonne by the Canal of Montech.

Miscellaneous

Montauban is the seat of a bishop and a court of assize. It has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce and a board of trade arbitration, lycées and a training college, schools of commerce and viticulture, a branch of the Bank of France, and a faculty of Protestant theology.

Births

Montauban was the birthplace of:

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