The south of France. In a restricted sense, Languedoc refers to a particular region - that area between the Garonne and the Rhone which encompassed greater Toulouse, but it has come to imply the whole south of France. It is a cultural and a linguistic reference ("langued'oc" makes reference to the southern dialect term for "yes" - "oc"); the south is quite distinct from the north, having been in contact with Mediterranean civilizations for a very long time. Here is the homeland of the great chansonniers, here is the birthplace of the cult of courtly love, and here were to be found the strongholds of the Cathars, or Albigensians - Mediaeval schismatics whose influence can still be felt.

Covers: Albi, Albret, Angoulême, Aquitaine, Armagnac, the Arverni, Astarac, Auvergne, Avignon, Baux, Béarn, Besançon, Beziers, Bigorre, Carcassonne, Fézensac, Foix, Forcalquier, Forez, Gascony, La Marche, Limoges, Mâcon, Marseille, Monaco, Orange, Périgord, Poitou, Provence, Razes, Rodez, Rouergue, Roussillon, Septimania, Toulouse, Valentinois, and Vienne.


ALBRET Less a geographic territory than the name of a family, the Albret dynasts were a Gascon clan of old Hispanic origin, who settled at an early date in Aquitaine. The name by which they became known derives from one of their earliest French possessions, the ville of Labrit, a stop on the road from Bourdeaux to Bayonne. Local barons of the district for centuries, they quietly amassed increasing amounts of territory, wealth, and influence, largely by advantageous marriages and canny service to successful overlords in the Middle Eastern and Albigensian Crusades. By the 15th and early 16th centuries they were at the summit of their power, holding numerous feudal lordships. The dynasty became extinct in the 16th century, but not before intermarriage brought them the pocket Franco-Hispanic Kingdom of Navarre. When this Kingdom became a French possession, the name of Albret was established as a ducal title until the 19th century.

ANGOULÊME A compact territory in northern Aquitaine, closely equivalent to the modern Département of Charente. A County during the Middle Ages, it became associated with the Royal House, and was raised to the level of a Duchy in early modern times.

AQUITAINE The southwestern quadrant of France, containing the great wine-producing basin of Bordeaux and the Garonne. The Carolingian creation was a Kingdom; that disintegrated and the Duchy set up in it's place. The region became an important cultural hearth, seeing the development of the great chansonniers, and the notion (so vital in the Middle Ages) of courtly love as a noble ideal.

ARMAGNAC A County in southwestern France originating as a division of the Duchy of Gascony, a significant power-broker during much of the Middle Ages and early modern times.

ASTARAC In southwestern France, a partition county alongside Armagnac and Fezenzac of the Duchy of Gascony.

AUVERGNE A region in south-central France, quite hilly and rather sparsely populated.

AVIGNON A town in southeastern France, 55 miles (88 km.) northwest of Marseille, famous for having been the center of the Papacy during the "Babylonian Captivity" of the 1300's and site of a rival Papacy during the great Catholic schism of the late 1300's and early 1400's.

A powerful lordship in Provence, at times (10th-13th c.) exercising jurisdiction over the port of Marseille. The lordship was based territorially on the citadel at what is now the commune of Les Baux-en-Provence, high in the Chaine des Alpilles, 13½ miles (22 km.) south of Avignon. Incidentally, the place lends it's name to an important aluminum ore, Bauxite, found in quantity here.
In 1631, the royal domain was sold by Louis XIII to the local community of Baux, and it was governed as a commune. In 1642 the king conferred the title of Marquis of Baux to prince Anthony I of Monaco. It continues to be one of the titles claimed by the Princes of Monaco to this day, though without any territorial implications.

BÉARN A district in far southwestern France, based on the Roman settlement of Beneharnum; it has been Basque to a considerable degree from the 6th Century CE. A Viscounty in vassalage to the Dukes of Aquitaine from Carolingian times, it had ceased to admit and feudal obligations by the 11th Century. The district is important inasmuch as it was inherited by Foix and through them apportioned to the Gallo-Iberian Kingdom of Navarre - when the bulk of Navarre was absorbed by Spain in the early 16th century, the Bearnois portion remained in a semi-autonomous condition until the succession rights were inherited by the French royal family late in the 16th century.

BESANÇON An ancient town (a center of the early Iron-Age Hallstadt Culture, and later an important Gaulish stronghold) in eastern France, 45 miles (72 km.) east of Dijon, and about 30 miles (48 km.) west of the Swiss frontier. During the Middle Ages it's Archbishopric wielded much secular authority. The town is the birthplace of Victor Hugo.

BIGORRE A district in southwestern France, roughly coterminous with the modern Département of Hautes Pyrénées, in the central region of the north flank of the Pyrenees. The largest town is Tarbes, but by far and away the best known town in the district is Lourdes, with the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, founded by St. Bernadette in 1858.

CARCASSONNE A city in the south of France, in Languedoc within the hill country north of the eastern Pyrenees extending toward the Massif Central. A cosmopolitan crossroads, subject to many cultural influences, the region is best known as the center of the Cathar movement, an anti-clerical sect of the 12th and 13th centuries closely paralleling Gnosticism.

FÉZENZAC A locale in southwestern France, an early division of the Duchy of Gascony granted as a County to a younger son of Duke Garcia.

FOIX A small county in southern France, in the foothills of the Pyrenees between Toulouse and Andorra. Though isolated and somewhat obscure in and of itself, it has through it's rulers had an influence on France and western Europe.

FORCALQUIER A small town in the south of France, a little distance from the Durance River and about 47 miles (76 km.) east of Avignon. It formed a minor County during the Middle Ages

FOREZ (Fores, Forest) A compact region in southeastern-central France, on the eastern flank of the Massif Central. It is based on the town of Feurs (Forum Segusiavorum), located on the upper Loire between Roanne and St. Etienne, some 32 miles (51 km.) west of Lyon, at the junction of the Rhone and Saone rivers.

GASCONY The far southwest of France, beside the Pyrenees and inhabited to a large extent by Basques. With the deterioration of the Carolingian Empire, it emerged for a time as a separate state and, in fact, has retained even to this day a reputation for nurturing a flamboyant, stubborn, and independent people - Dumas Pere's fictional portrayal of D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers is a reasonable example of the reputation of these people.

La MARCHE A region in south-central France, originally part of Limousin, but detached in the 10th century to form an additional barrier Lordship to deal with invasions from the north.

LIMOGES A city in south-central France, on the northern edge of Aquitaine. Originally the capital of the Lemovicii, a Gaulish folk, Limoges has long been noted for its fine enamelware and porcelain. In common with most border locales, the city and district has led a chequered history as various regional powers vied for control. The current old city is, in fact, what remains of two separate communities, Limoges and St. Martial, which faced each other across the river and belonged to different overlords.

MÂCON A town in eastern France on the Saone, 36 miles (58 km.) north of Lyon and about 60 miles (96 km.) west of Geneva. A County closely associated with the Free Counts of Burgundy (Franche Comte) in the Middle Ages.

(also Marseilles in English; in Occitan Marselha or Marsiho), known in antiquity as Massalia, is the second largest city in France after Paris. Located on the south coast of France, Marseille is France's largest commercial port. Marseille is the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, as well as the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department. It was the site of a famous ancient Greek colony as well as home one of the oldest Christian communities in Western Europe - reputedly evangalized by Mary Magdalene and Lazarus.

MONACO This tiny principality began as the base of operations for an exiled Genovese family, the Grimaldi, conducting piracy and raiding operations against the pro-Ghibelline Genoan state. They held a haphazard and intermittent connection with the locality thereafter, although permanent control over the city was not achieved until 1419. The Principality was established in 1659. Though fully independent, a 1918 treaty with France specifies that should the reigning dynasty become extinct, the Principality will revert to the status of an autonomous district within France.

ORANGE An ancient market town in southeastern France, on the Rhone River north of Avignon. Originally Arausio (named for a local Gaulish tutulary divinity), there are superior Roman ruins located here. An independent County from the 11th century,and a Principality from c. 1175, the place has gained a permanent imprint in European history in providing the name for a branch of the German noble House of Nassau (who inherited the County in the 16th century) - a branch that went on to establish themselves as sovereigns in the Netherlands.

PÉRIGORD A region on the northern perimeter of Aquitaine, between Bourbonnais to the northeast and Guyenne to the south. During the Middle Ages it was in constant dispute between English and French forces.

POITOU A large County in western France, lying along the south bank of the Loire, roughly equivalent to the modern Départements of Vendée, Deux-Sevres, and Vienne. Athwart the northern verge of Aquitaine, the area has always been a frontier between north and south and, as such, has seen a number of very significant battles - two of the best known are Poitiers (sometime called Tours) in 732 in which Charles Martel defeated an Arab expeditionary force intent on conquering France for the Caliph, and Poitiers again (1356), in which an English raiding force crushed a French Army and captured the French King (John II).

PROVENCE The south of France, between the Piedmont and the Pyrenees and adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea.  A land rich in history and culture, Provence has been a distinct territory from its earliest days.

ROUERGUE (Roergue) A county in southern France, encompassing most of the modern Département of Aveyron; Auvergne is to the north, Languedoc to the south, Gévaudan to the east, and Quercy in the west. The chief city is Rodez, some 76 miles (122 km.) northeast of Toulouse - Albi is on the road to Toulouse, 32 miles (51 km.) distant. During the Middle Ages the city was fought over between the Bishops of Rodez and the Counts of Rouergue, discord reaching such a pitch that the town was subdivided into two centers with a wall between, the Bourg of the Counts and the Cité of the Bishops. These names are retained even today in the two main plazas within the community, the Place de'la Cité and the Place du Bourg.

ROUSSILLON A district on the northern slopes of the Pyrenees, stretching inland from the sea - Perpignan is the major city in the region.

SEPTIMANIA A region in the south of France, on the Mediterranean coast of the Golfe du Lion between Perpignan and Montpelier, centered on the port of Narbonne. It includes interior districts as far as the frontier with Toulouse. A transit point both for people travelling to or from the Pyrenees, and as a port of entry/exit for much of the western Mediterranean, the area has always been subject to diverse cultures and influences. Much of the region was heavily damaged in the 13th century in being a stronghold of Cathar adherents who became the subject of the Albigensian Crusade. On a literary note, it may be of interest that at least one tradition holds this to be the original homeland of the family of Sir Lancelot, within the Arthurian Cycle.

TOULOUSE An important county in the south of France.

VALENTINOIS An old district in south-central France, along the Rhone River, roughly equivalent to the modern Département of Drom, and centered on the city of Valence - 56 miles (90 km.) south of Lyon, 67 miles (108 km.) north of Avignon, 45 miles (71 km.) west-southwest of Grenoble.

VIENNE A major city in southeastern France, a county in medieval times. From the 12th century, nearly all the Counts utilized the name "Dauphin" as part of their names, and by the 14th century, it had assumed the status of a title. When the County entered the Royal demesne, successive Kings of France developed the habit of assigning it to their heirs, thus creating the official style of the Heir Apparent to France as the Dauphin.