There are so many beautiful towns to explore in the South of France – one of our favourites is the compact and characterful city of Narbonne. Here are just a few of the historical treasures that our guests can explore there.
Narbonne: Sightseeing in Southern France
Cathedral of Saint-Just and Saint-Pasteur
One of the most imposing sites in the city is the Gothic cathedral. It was built in the thirteenth century in the style of the great cathedrals of northern France, with impressive flying buttresses, soaring stained glass windows and a vaulted choir. However, this beautiful structure was never finished – there is no knave or transept, as constructing these would mean knocking down part of the city’s defensive ramparts. This was considered unwise at this troubled time when defence against attack was a very real concern.
We would recommend taking a look at the cathedral’s Treasury, which houses a remarkable collection of liturgical objects. These treasures – which include a sixteenth-century tapestry depicting the Creation, an eleventh-century pyxis and a carved ivory plaque from the ninth century – reflect the immense wealth and status of the medieval Archbishops of Narbonne.
Archbishops’ Palace and the Via Domitia
The palace of the Archbishops can be found nearby in the centre of Narbonne. It has multiple towers and consists of two palaces: the Romanesque Palais Vieux and the Gothic Palais Neuf. Although it started as the modest residence of the town’s ecclesiastical elite, it is now the grand setting for Narbonne’s Town Hall, as well as the Museum of Art in the old apartments and the Archaeological Museum in one wing.
Just outside the palace you will notice an exposed section of Roman road. This was once part of the Via Domitia, built in the second century BC as a vital access route from Rome in the west to the Cadiz in the east. Narbonne was the capital of the ancient Roman province of Narbo Martius, the first Roman colony in Gaul. This glimpse of the road’s original surface is a reminder of the city’s important ancient past.
Exploring Narbonne on a Barge Cruise
A trip to Narbonne features on all of our Classic Cruises of the Canal du Midi. If you would like to explore its unique blend of Roman and medieval history yourself, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our sales team and book your barge cruise today.