My Languedoc village
This beautiful village is well known for its medieval centre, its chateau and its Saturday market, is on the edge of the area known as the Vaunage.
The presence of the Vidourle river attracted its first inhabitants as far back as several millenia. This can been confirmed by finds of flints and stone workings in caves upstream.
The Emperor Tiberius, in the 1st Century constructed the main bridge over the Vidourle river into Sommieres in order to link Nimes with Toulouse or Lodeve. The original bridge was 189m long and consisted of 17 arches. Most of these arches now have been built over and make up one side of the present market square (there are medieval shops and housing over them). Only 7 arches are now visible.
In the Middle Ages, the population was drawn to the area around the chateau for refuge and protection. At this time the economy of the village turned towards working with skins and leathers. There were many herds of cattle in this area and the local oak trees provided the much sought after tannin needed, the Vidourle provided the plentiful water supply required. Locals now started to build their homes in roman style arcades as the Vidourle was showing some of it's flooding characteristics.
The Saturday market can be proven to date back to 1183.
In the 16th Century the majority of the population was Protestant. Besieged twice, 1573 and 1575 (once by the Catholics and once by the Protestants) , the village was practically destroyed, only 38 of the poorest houses remained upright. Louis XIII came as the head of his army in 1622 to claim Sommieres. (the village gave up with little defence.)
The last showing of arms was in 1703. Jean Cavalier, one of the Camisard chiefs with 800 men, made an incursion in the suburbs of Sommieres, then pulled away without managing to enter.
The chateau was finally transformed into a jail which imprisoned one by one the Protestants there were also prisoners of war, English and Dutch mariners, political prisoners, convicts and even prostitutes.
Today Sommieres is famous for it's former resident Lawrence Durrell (author of The Alexandra Quartet) and you can visit an exhibition at the Espace Lawrence Durrell in the centre of the village. There is a fabulous Saturday market and over 140 commerces, also a weekly flea market and the arena has frequent events.
The steep walk up the castle is worth it - there are lovely views over the surrounding countryside.
In July & August there is a Wednesday night market. April boasts the Fete Medievale.
Sommieres is well known for it's flooding. In September 2002 the water reached as far up as the 2nd floor of the buildings in the market square. The local commerces are well versed in listening to the alerts, removing their goods and furniture and returning to be back in business within 48hrs sometimes. It's noted that some properties in the Sommieres area dropped as much as a third in price after this particular incident. There is more information & photos on this on www.the-languedoc-page.com and particularly under the forum section.
Some facts & figures :
*Sommieres is situated 22kms from Nimes and 28 kms from Montpellier. (Latitude 43° 47’ 07’’ Nord / Longitude 4° 05’ 27’’ Est / Altitude 19m (min) – 106 m (max) )
*There 3677 people living in Sommieres, an average of 354 per km2 (Sommieres covers an area of 10.36km2).
*The population hasn't increased greatly in recent years, back in 1962 there was 3145 inhabitants.
*People who lives in Sommieres are called Sommiérois.
*Sommieres is twinned with Callosa de Segura (near Alicante, Spain)
* There are garderies, maternelle & elementaire schools and colleges in Sommieres.
* You'll find all the doctors, dentists, physiotherapists etc you'll need in Sommieres
* There is a medium sized Intermarche supermarket a short walk outside the village.
* You are just 5 mins drive to the Lunel peage of the A9 motorway.
Association Laurence Durrell http://asso.larrydurrell.free.fr/
Dinner & Cabaret: http://www.le-theatre.fr/
Hotels & Restaurants:
Information taken from the Sommieres Tourist Board and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sommieres
Direct line: 09 54 10 72 10 Intl: + 33 9 54 10 72 10
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