Tourist office of Pays d'Uzès

 

History of Uzes

A prestigious past... Uzès offers its history and the story of its dreams A town with character, a tumultuous past, a sumptuous architectural heritage...
Immerse yourself in the charm and authenticity of Uzès, a town which has an enchanting history and an exceptional architectural heritage. Soak up the unique atmosphere amongst medieval streets and secret gardens and explore the surprising past of its Ducal castle and Renaissance mansions. A simple stroll through the town becomes a seductive pleasure thanks to the elegance of its shaded squares and the soothing freshness of its ancient fountains. Uzès, a town of Art and History, offers every visitor the memory of having spent a very special time...

Ucetia, gallo-roman oppidum

The first traces of occupation in Uzès are found on the banks of the River Alzon, close to the source of the Eure. An oppidum was built at the top of the hill, and in the 5th century was known as “Ucetia”. In 50AD, the Romans decided to tap the source of the Eure to provide water for the city of Nîmes. They built a 50km long aqueduct, the main part being the Pont du Gard, which crosses the River Gardon.

Uzèz, the city of bishops

Uzès was a Bishopric from the 5th century to the French Revolution. The Bishops of Uzès were very powerful. They had the right to mint coins, dispense justice and even bought part of the Uzès domain in the 13th century. There was continued rivalry between the Lords and Bishops, which resulted in various conflicts and lawsuits. In the 18th century, the diocese of Uzès included 193 parishes and was one of the largest in the Languedoc.

Around the rivers

You can see the remains of the Roman Aqueduct just a short distance from the town centre, in the Eure valley. From the chemin André Gide, follow the yellow waymarks that follow the River Alzon. Return via the other bank.

A saint and a pope

Saint Firmin, 4th Bishop of Uzès, was venerated for having performed miracles during the plague, the scourge of the Middle Ages. His remains can still be seen in the Saint Théodorit Cathedral. Guillaume de Grimoard du Roure held office with the Bishop of Uzès in the 14th century and eventually became Pope Urbain V.

First peerage duchy in France

The existence of the lords of Uzès is verified by a charter drawn up in 1088. Two centuries later (in 1229), the Languedoc was brought back under Crown rule and the lords of Uzès took part in a number of different wars. Their loyalty to the Crown resulted in their being made viscounts, counts and dukes. In 1632, the last Duke of Montmorency, who was the 1st Duke in France, rebelled against the King. He was beheaded and the title passed to the Duke of Uzès by seniority. The Uzès family own the chateau in the town centre and have been living there on and off for more than 1000 years.

A huguenot stonghold

In the mid-16th century many citizens of Uzès were Calvinist and the town was the 5th largest Protestant town in the kingdom. Religious wars resulted in the destruction of all the churches and of the temple that Uzès had at the time. In 1685, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes caused many to leave for Protestant countries in Europe, or their colonies. The “newly-converted’, isolated from employment in government service, grew rich through trade. In 1661-62, the writer Jean Racine stayed in Uzès and his “Lettres d’Uzès”, sent to his Parisian friends, are a precious record of town life at this time.

First peerage duchy in France - what does that mean ?

Through their title the Dukes of Uzès were first in line for the throne after the princes of the blood. Over several centuries, they held various rights in court ceremonies : as the Queen Mother’s knights, they carried the crown and sceptre during the coronation and were responsible for pronouncing the words “The King is dead, long live the King” at funerals. It was their duty to put their sword and their life to the King’s service and this resulted in 21 Dukes of Uzès being killed or wounded in battle.

Churchs in Uzès

Would you know how to find the former Uzès churches ? Today Uzès has 2 churches and a temple. In the past, there were 10: Saint Julien church has become the “quartier des Arts Saint Julien” ; the “Cordeliers” church is now the Temple; the Saint Laurent church is now apartments and the Capucin church is the Tourist Office. As for Notre Dame la Neuve, Saint Firmin, Saint Ferréol and Saint Roman, which were all partially destroyed, these remain very much a mystery to this day.

From revolution to industrial revolution

From the 15th century, Uzès produced woollen twill and cloth, then stockings and finally silk, until mulberry tree disease deprived the town of its textile industry, which gave work to 2000 people. This decline took the town with it, despite the development of the pottery industry and the liquorice factory at the end of the 19th century. Building the railway station outside the town only served to reinforce this isolation, which, paradoxically, has allowed Uzès to retain its medieval character. Uzès was a sub-prefecture from “the year VIII” to 1926. These activities still exist: Zan, a jewel in the crown of the Uzès region’s liquorice producers, has become Haribo - Ricqlès - Zan and the Pichon family pottery firm, present in Uzès since 1802 is perpetuating its traditional skills, contributing to making Uzès an internationally renowned destination.

Memories of Zan

Zan was one of the leading liquorice producers in Uzès. It later became Haribo. Ricqlès Zan is still active in the town. Its museum at Pont des Charrettes (established in 1996) is one of the greatest tourist successes of the last ten years.

Pichon family

In Uzès, the Pichon family continues to manufacture its woven pots, which have been internationally famous for 2 centuries.

Uzès, “la belle”

In the 20th century, Uzès gained a new lease of life with its town centre area being classified as a “protected zone” on 5th January 1965. Ever since that date, Uzès has been unceasingly improving and embellishing its environment: the roads have been paved, electricity cables hidden, facades renovated and the “protected zone” has been widened from 12 hectares in 1965 to 41 hectares today.
Economic development has been driven by tourism since the early 50s and boosted through the implantation of several major facilities such as the departmental psychiatric hospital complex and the new local hospital, the Haribo plant, the National Stud Farm and numerous SMEs. Today Uzès has a population of 8500 inhabitants and its schools welcome some 3,500 children. The city enjoys a wide reaching international reputation with visitors coming from all four corners of the planet to admire its architectural heritage and enjoy strolling though the town centre.

A nobel prize for Uzès

Charles Gide, born in Uzès in 1847, was a teacher at the College de France and a cooperative theorist. His nephew, André Gide (1869-1951), was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1947 and tells of his holidays in Uzès in his novel “Si le grain ne meurt”.