Beziers has several interesting museums, and I recently visited the Musee du Bitterois in an attempt to entertain my 15-year-old nephew, who came to visit during his school holidays. I’m not sure how successful the entertaining part was (YOU try and get some kind of feedback from a 15-year-old teen!! :-)), but I was certainly impressed by the museum. It is situated in part of the old barracks in the St Jacques neighbourhood of the old town, and the building itself is impressive, even more so on the inside. It’s all very spacious and well-lit, arranged around what was an open courtyard at one point, and which is now partly roofed over.
The exhibition is in chronological order, and starts with prehistoric finds. I was particularly impressed by this beautiful menhir and the prehistoric burial urns on display. I get confused as to what belongs to which period – so if you really want to know you’ll have to visit.
The most ancient artifacts were juxtaposed with modern art – an interesting concept!
The museum has a particularly rich collection of Roman artifacts – commonplace objects such as oil lamps,
but also this exquisite carving, which I think is ivory. It’s tiny and except for the missing head it’s perfect.
Another astounding find was a whole collection of stone heads of the imperial family, which turned up when a house in central Beziers was remodelled in the 19th century. They were all hidden in the same location and in beautiful condition! Don’t ask me the names, I only remember Agrippa and Julie…
Then there were these enormous stone blocks with an inscription which I’ve not yet been able to decipher, despite using google translations. Something to do with hot mother’s milk making you happy, and male heirs, but most likely I have that totally wrong, Latin was never a strong subject for me :-). I couldn’t find a description for that particular exhibit, otherwise I could have told you what the inscription really meant. But this way we can just make it up as we go along.
And then there was this rather racy sounding inscription, but I think it’s something to do with six at home (??), and of course most of it is missing, so who knows??
After all that Roman stuff the exhibition got to the medieval period, which meant a fair amount of religious art, and there was a fine statue of a headless St Aphrodise. Finally we arrived at more modern times, and there was a charming reconstruction of an Auberge along the Canal du Midi, along with the workshop of a last potter of Beziers.
The revolt of the wine growers was well documented, and the portrait of Ernest Ferroul caught my eye. He seems to have been very active in the movement, but was also a very shrewd politician and changed allegiances frequently – sounds familiar?
The Station Uvale looks very much like an art deco ornament. By the looks of it everything do with grapes was being sold there.
And here is yet another door knocker, this one made by a Mr Cordier towards the end of the 19th century, and pretty monumental in size!!
Beziers’ industries were many, and this poster for Blayac brandy is particularly colourful. I’ve not been able to turn up any information about the factory or the brand, but the name Blayac is still very common in Beziers.
And here’s another representation of the famous camel (see the post about the occitan carnival) . It’s somewhat smaller than the camel which is taken out for the processions, but it has a very jolly face!
And finally, the old boat in the sunken exhibition space of the museum, along with the display cases of local fauna and flora. Fancy a little cruise?
The St Jacques neighbourhood surrounding the museum is pretty interesting too, full of old buildings and quirky details.
One of the more interesting things to see is the site of the old Roman arena, which was completely built over after the fall of the Roman empire. At some point during the past 20 years, the municipality decided to consolidate the remaining walls and create a small park open to the public.
The museum has a hand-cranked model of the site, to give you an idea of what there was/is.
The views from the edge of St Jacques neighbourhood are fantastic – you get a great view of the cathedral, and the surrounding plains. It must have been a very strategic spot in olden times…
And there you have it, an exploration of another small part of Beziers, full of history and interesting nooks and crannies. Thanks for joining me!