An Inhabitated Bridge
The Roman Bridge, as an emblem of Sommières, is also the symbol for the long history of the city and its passionate relationship with the river Vidourle. When visitors contemplate the bridge, they can’t see and understand its particular character: an inhabited bridge continuously since the medieval period. To the inhabitants of Sommières, it is an important part of their rich history and commercial life, but they often ignore that it counts among the rare inhabited bridge of Europe, like the famous Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Recently, several “hidden arcs” were discovered and a reconstruction in 3D imaging helps to understand how parts of the bridge have been integrated into the urban environment.
A medieval city
Sommières deserves his existence to the river Vidourle. The roman bridge, built in the first centuryA.D. as part of the Roman Road between Nîmes and Toulouse has been under the surveillance of the Gallo Roman village above the hill. Sommières was lorded over by the Lords of Sauve and Anduze. This powerful family built a castle on the top of the hill. The first and most important activity has been leather tanning, that’s why the population settled down close to the river. The Vidourle river overflowed regularly causing the townspeople to build homes over arched ground floors. During the 13th century, King Louis IX (Saint Louis) took possession of Sommières. The wars of religions caused great suffering to the town, which was twice held under siege. At the end of the 19th century, the Railway opens Sommières to other regions and sustains the development of industries.
The Castle and the Feudal Chapel
The construction of the castle is said to have taken place between the 10th and 11th centuries. It was strategically located above the Roman Bridge, the only way to cross the Vidourle River between the sea and the Cévennes Mountains. It originally had two identical towers but only one remains standing today.
After historical and documentary research on the whole of the castle, the chapel was renovated and now houses a heritage centre. Graffiti made by Protestant prisoners during the Wars of Religion can be seen, like those in the Tour de Constance in Aigues Mortes..
The romanesque Chapel of Saint Julien de Montredon
Before arriving in the village coming from Sommières you will see on a hill to your left the Romanesque chapel of St Julien de Montredon which is a perfect example of Languedoc Romanesque architecture.
It attracts lovers of religions architecture, while music-lovers enjoy the concerts which are held there. In the village there is an imposing 18th century castle which now houses a restaurant. Along the Vidourle riverbank is an open air washing-place which reminds us of the washer women of the old days. To the north of the village one can see a Spanish colonial-style temple nestled in the greenery
The castle of Villevieille
The town and its magnificent castle overlook the Vidourle river plain. The castle tower dates back to the 10th century whereas the main part of the castle was renovated in the Renaissance style at the end of the 16th century. To visit the castle, telephone 0670 61 81 49. Villevieille has a remarkable archeological heritage. The prehistoric settlement of Fontbouisse is located not far away. This site was occupied 2500 years before Christ. A recent archeological dig, near the present town hall, revealed remains of a Roman town dating from the 1st century AD.