South of Montpellier, bordered by the Mediterranean and the nearby pools, discover the Maguelone Cathedral, the "Cathedral of the Sands", a former Romanesque bishop's palace near Palavas-les-Flots.
In the south of France, alongside the Mediterranean sea, 4 km to the west of the coastal resort of Palavas-les-Flots, on an island planted with vineyards and centuries-old pine trees, the Romanesque cathedral of Maguelone has been inhabited for as long as anyone can remember.
Located near the fine sandy beaches, the island of Maguelone and the cathedral offer an excellent site to visit as a family.
Destroyed and rebuilt several times
The cathedral was rebuilt in the 11th century thanks to the determination of Bishop Arnaud. He had a ring of fortifications built, in addition to a bridge to Villeneuve les Maguelone, linking the island to the mainland.
As the property of the Church of Rome, it was used on several occasions to provide sanctuary for pontiffs fleeing Rome and Italy. In 1536 the Episcopal See was transferred to Montpellier.
It became a place of sanctuary for Protestant troops
In 1632, the famous Cardinal de Richelieu obtained an order from Louis XIII authorising the destruction of the mediaeval fortress "in order that troublemakers may not take advantage of the site to disturb public order". Nevertheless, a recommendation was made that the "church and accommodation of the said castle should not be touched".
Following the dismantling of the fortifications
and the levelling of the towers, all that was left standing was the ruined cathedral and a modestly sized home enabling the priest to continue services. The last sections of the walls and the hewn stone from the demolitions were used to build the banks of the Canal du Rhône in Sète.
After several centuries of silence and inactivity,
Maguelone was reborn, and rediscovered its traditional role as a land of hospitality. Since 1969, the association Les Compagnons de Maguelone (a vocational rehabilitation centre) has had responsibility for the site. Among other things, its role involves maintaining, restoring and enhancing the former cathedral and its grounds, carrying out archaeological research, welcoming visitors and organising activities on the site.
There is a Festival of Ancient Music in June.