Béziers (Besièrs in Occitan, and Besiers in Catalan) is a town in Languedoc, in the southwest of France. It is a commune and a sub-prefecture of the Hérault department. Béziers hosts the famous Feria de Béziers, centred around bullfighting, every August. A million visitors are attracted to the five-day event.
White wine was exported to Rome; two dolia discovered in an excavation near Rome are marked, one "I am a wine from Baeterrae and I am five years old," the other simply "white wine of Baeterrae". She was occupied by Moors between 720 and 752.
During the 10th through 12th centuries Béziers was the centre of a Viscountship of Béziers. The viscounts ruled most of the coastal plain around the city, including also the city of Agde. They also controlled the major east-west route through Languedoc, roughly following the old Roman Via Domitia, with the two key bridges over the Orb at Béziers and over the Hérault at Saint-Thibéry.
After the death of viscount William around 990, the viscounty passed to his daughter Garsendis and her husband, count Raimond-Roger of Carcassonne (d. ~1012). It was then ruled by their son Peter-Raimond (d. ~1060) and his son Roger (d. 1067), both of whom were also count of Carcassonne.
Roger died without children and Béziers passed to his sister Ermengard and her husband Raimond-Bertrand Trencavel. The Trencavels were to rule for the next 142 years, until the Albigensian Crusade - a formal 'Crusade' (holy war) authorised by Pope Innocent III.
Béziers was a Languedoc stronghold of Catharism, which the Catholic Church condemned as heretical and which Catholic forces extirpated in the Albigensian Crusade. Béziers was the first city to be sacked, on July 22, 1209. Béziers' Catholics were given the opportunity to leave before the Crusaders besieged the city. However, they refused and fought with the Cathars. In a sortie outside the walls, their combined force was defeated, and pursued back into town. In the bloody massacre which followed, no one was spared, not even those who took refuge in the churches. The commander of the crusade was the Papal Legate Arnaud-Amaury (or Arnald Amalaricus, Abbot of Citeaux). When asked by a Crusader how to tell Catholics from Cathars once they had taken the city, the abbot supposedly replied, "Kill them all, God will know His own" - "Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet". (This phrase can only be found in one source, Caesarius of Heisterbach along with a story of some Cathars who desecrated a copy of the Old Testament and threw it from the town's walls.)
The invaders fired the cathedral of Saint Nazaire, which collapsed on those who had taken refuge inside. The town was pillaged and burnt. None were left alive. (A plaque opposite the cathedral records the 'Day of Butchery' perpetrated by the 'northern barons'.) A few parts of the Romanesque cathedral St-Nazaire survived, and repairs started in 1215. The restoration, along with that of the rest of the city, continued until the 15th century.
In the repression following Louis Napoléon's coup d'état in 1851, troops fired on and killed Republican protestors in Béziers. Others were condemned to death or transported to Guyana, including a former mayor who died at sea attempting to escape from there. In the Place de la Révolution a plaque and a monument by Jean Antoine Injalbert commemorates these events. (Injalbert also designed the Fontaine du Titan in Béziers' Plâteau des Poètes park and the Molière monument in nearby Pézenas.)
Local traditions had St. Aphrodisius arrive at Béziers mounted on a camel. Hence the custom of leading a mechanical camel in the procession at Béziers on the feast of the saint. The camel was burned during the Wars of Religion and again during the French Revolution. The custom was revived in 1803 only to be discontinued during the Revolution of 1830, when it was considered a symbol of feudalism and religious fanaticism. Today, it continues to run through the city's streets during local holidays. The current head dates from the eighteenth century. In the 1970s, it was proposed that the camel be remade to give it a real camel's appearance. However, the townspeople protested and the camel retained its traditional appearance. The first historically known bishop is Paulinus mentioned in 418; St. Guiraud was Bishop of Béziers from 1121 to 1123.
Béziers Cap d'Agde Airport (previously Béziers-Agde-Vias Airport), owned by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, currently provides daily direct flights to Paris Orly and seasonal services to Bastia. Following an extension to the runway which was completed in March 2007, Ryanair operates flights to and from Bristol Airport, which commenced March 2008. On 24 March 2008, it was announced that during the summer months Ryanair flights would also operate to and from London Stansted with a possibility of being extended should they prove successful. Further flights from Béziers to London Luton Airport were announced in June 2008 and these will be commencing twice a week from October 2008.
Béziers was the birthplace of: