Friday, 29 January 2010

Famous people from the Languedoc

Quelques personnages célèbres du Languedoc-Roussillon

Some famous celebrities and personalities of Languedoc-Roussillon

• Tautavel Man : About 455 000 years ago, before man had even mastered fire, a man aged about 20 years old, and about 1m65 tall, lived close to the village of Tautavel in the Pyrénées-Orientales region. He had all the characteristics of the first European inhabitants, ancestors of Neanderthal man and of modern mankind.

• Cneus Domitius Ahenobarbus : This Roman proconsul built the Roman Road from the Alps to the Pyrenees in 118BC and gave it his name, the Via Domitia.

• Simon de Montfort (probably 1150-1218) : Often described as the « legendary knight », Simon de Montfort lead the 1209 crusade against the Albigensians. His unshakeable conviction gave him the nick-name of the «Lion Crusader ».

• Urbain V (1310-1370) : Pope from 1362 until his death, he was born in the château of Grisac in the Lozère region. The capital of Lozère, Mende, benefitted greatly from this connection, Urbain building for the town one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the Languedoc.

• Jacques Cœur (1395-1456) : Born in Bourges, and Treasurer to King Charles VII, he made Montpellier in the Hérault into one of the main poles of economic activity in France and lived there in the town-house (or “hotel particulier”) known today as the “Hôtel des Trésoriers de France”.

• François Rabelais (1494-1553) : Between 1530 et 1536, François Rabelais visited Montpellier (Hérault) on many occasions during his medical studies. Certain aspects of daily life there, including references to parties and banquets, can be found in Pantagruel that he published in 1532.

• Pierre Paul Riquet (1604-1680) : Engineer, and born in Béziers (Hérault), he undertook the construction of the Canal du Midi.

• Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) (1622-1673) : Dramatic author, amongst the most important within French literature. He adopted Pézenas (Hérault) and its region as his home, and as somewhere to put on his plays.

• Jean Racine (1639-1699) : Jean Racine was sent to Uzès (Gard) in 1662 to live with his uncle, a monk, who was meant to convince him of his religious vocation. The beauty of the countryside and the passionate Mediterranean temperament are well described in his Letters from Uzès that were sent to his Parisien friends.

•Auguste Comte (1798-1857) : This philosopher, and founder of Positivism, was born in Montpellier (Hérault).

•Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) : Whilst not from the region, this famous biologist discovered a remedy for an affliction of the silk-worm in 1867 that was to be of great benefit to the local silk industry.

•Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) : Poet, writer, story-teller and dramatic author, he was from Nîmes (Gard), where one can still visit his birth-place at 20, Boulevard Gambetta.

•Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) : This painter, originally from Montpellier (Hérault), is recognised today as having been one of the pioneers of Impressionism.

•Aristide Maillol (1861-1944) : Famous sculptor, born in Banyuls-sur-Mer (Pyrénées-Orientales) where he is buried. There is a museum there that retraces his life and work.

•Paul Valéry (1871-1945) : Writer and poet from Sète (Hérault). Amongst other works he sung the praises of the sailor’s cemetery in Sète.

•Jean Moulin (1899-1943) : Born in Béziers (Hérault), and hero of the Résistance, he was the founder and the first President of the Conseil National de la Résistance.

•Edgar Faure (1908-1988) : Born in Béziers (Hérault), he was one of the most influential political figures of the 4th and 5th Republics.

•Gaston Defferre (1910-1986) : Mayor of Marseille for a long period, and Minister of the Interior from 1981 to 1984, he was born in Marsillargues (Hérault).

• Philippe Lamour (1903-1992) : Creator of the Lower Rhone Company (Bas Rhône Languedoc), Philippe Lamour was a lawyer, journalist, writer, and an international expert alongside Jean Monnet ; he contributed significantly to the modernisation of French agriculture and the improvement in the quality of the wine industry.

•Charles Trénet (1913) : The famous « Crazy singer », author, composer, singer and comedian ; born in Narbonne (Aude).

•George Brassens (1921-1981) : Poet and singer inspired by the traditions of the troubadours, he was the author of « Bury me on the beach at Sète », his birth-place, where he now rests.

•Juliette Gréco (1927) : Famous singer and actor, originally from Montpellier (Hérault).
Many other celebrities and personalities have marked the Languedoc-Roussillon with their presence, including actors such as Michel Galabru (Hérault), Bernadette Lafont (Gard), Louis Velle (Gard), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Gard)... 


Famous 20th-century painters and periods have left their mark on Roussillon: Cubism in Céret, Fauvism in Collioure, Surrealism in Perpignan, and so on. Picasso, Miró, Matisse, Derain and Chagall have captured the unique light of the Côte Vermeille. 

On the seaside in Herault, Palavas will forever remain the homeland of Albert Dubout, Sète lives to the rhythm of Combas and Di Rosa, and Montpellier remembers Frédéric Bazille, an Impressionist painter famous beyond France’s borders. At Banyuls-sur-mer, you can visit the small farm where the sculptor Maillol lived and worked. Museums, sites and exhibitions throughout Languedoc Roussillon — the Carré d’Art in Nîmes, Fabre Museum in Montpellier, Fleury Museum in Lodève, Fine Arts Museum in Carcassonne and Modern Art Museum in Céret, to mention just a few — recall the lives and legacies of these great artists... 

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Many writers have left their mark on the region ; from Antiquity onwards, the Greek historians Strabon and Polybe, followed by Languedocien and Catalan writers, each has affirmed their originality ; Rabelais and Molière, too, exercised their talents here. In 1662, Jean Racine, sent to his uncle’s in Uzès, discovered the Mediterranean skies that prompted him to write the famous verse "And our nights are more beautiful than you days". 

Paul Valéry, born in Sète in 1871, began writing literature in the symbolism period, as a disciple of Mallarmé and a friend of Gide. The famous Spanish poet Antonio Machado lived in Collioure and is buried in the town cemetery. More recently, André Chamson and Jean-Pierre Chabrol were able to write eloquently of the atmosphere and the life of the Cevenol valleys. Claude Simon was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1985, and Jean Rouaud the Goncourt Prize in 1990. Other contemporary writers were born in the region, such as Frédérique Hébrard (Hérault), Marie Rouanet (Hérault), Malika Mokeddem (Hérault), Jean Carrière (Gard)...


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