Languedoc is a historic province in southern France, bordering the Mediterranean Sea on the south and the Rhône River in the east. MONTPELLIER and TOULOUSE have long been the leading cities. The southern portion of the region, Bas (Lower) Languedoc, is composed of a low limestone plain, where almost half of all French wine is produced. In the north, in the Cevennes Mountains, sheep raising is the principal activity.
In 121 BC the area was incorporated into the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis. By 924 it came under the control of the powerful counts of Toulouse. Under them, Languedoc developed a rich culture based on its distinctive language. The region's name is derived from this dialect of French, the language (langue) in which "yes" is rendered by "oc"; the language of northern France, where "oui" (formerly "oil") is used for "yes," is called langue d'oil. The troubadour poetry of Langue d'oc flowered from the 10th to 12th century. During the same period, the ALBIGENSES, a religious sect, enjoyed a wide following in the area. In 1209, however, Pope INNOCENT III declared a crusade against the sect, and Languedoc was subsequently invaded by northern French troops. By the mid-13th century, Languedoc had been annexed by the French crown. During the French Revolution, Languedoc was divided into the departments of Ardeche, Gard, Herault, Aude, and parts of Haute-Garonne, Lozere, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Ariège, and Haute Loire.
Carcassonne in southwestern France (1990 pop., 43,470), is the capital of the Aude department and is situated on the Aude River and the Canal du Midi. The city of Carcassonne is divided by the Aude into two distinct parts: the Ville Basse, or lower city, which contains the modern business district, and the Cité, a remarkable medieval fortress--one of Europe's best preserved, walled cities. Construction was begun on the Cité by the Romans, with fortifications added by the Visigoths in the 5th century and the viscounts of Carcassonne and Béziers in the 12th century. Four centuries of prosperity ended with the 13th-century warfare of the Albigensian Crusade, and the French crown took control of the area in 1247. When Roussillon province, to the south, was annexed (1659) to France, Carcassonne lost military importance as a frontier city. In 1844 restoration of the Cité was initiated by the architect Viollet-le-Duc. The Ville Basse, founded in 1240, is a wine-shipping center, and the Cité is an important tourist attraction.
Montpellier is the capital city of Herault department in the Languedoc region of southern France, about 125 km (75 mi) northwest of Marseille and 12 km (7 mi) north of the Mediterranean coast. The population is 207,996 (1990). A manufacturing and trade center, the city has textile, food processing, electronic, and chemical industries. It is also a leading health resort.
Founded in the 8th century on the site of a Benedictine abbey, the city is formed around a central hub with radiating streets and is surrounded by a belt of modern apartment buildings and factories. Long a center of intellectual life, it is the home of the University of Montpellier (founded 1289), with its famous medical faculty.
Toulouse is a major city in southern France, on the east bank of the Garonne River, about 600 km (370 mi) south of Paris. The population is 358,688 (1990). Canals (including the 17th-century Canal du Midi) connect Toulouse to the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
Since the end of World War II, Toulouse has become a center of the French aerospace industry and associated production of electronics and chemicals. The older established manufactures are leather, shoes, textiles, stained glass, and machinery. The city serves as the agricultural market center for the surrounding Aquitaine Basin. Historic landmarks include the Romanesque Basilica of Saint-Sernin (11th-12th century) and the Gothic Cathedral of Saint-Etienne, begun during the 11th century. The University of Toulouse (1229) is the second oldest university in France.
Toulouse, known as Tolosa, was an important Gallic city when it was taken by the Romans in 106 BC. Later it was the capital (AD 419-507) of the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse. From the 9th century Toulouse was the seat of a powerful county and the center of the distinctive Languedoc culture. In the 13th century, after the crusade against the Albigenses, a sect widespread in the area, the county was annexed to the French crown. The city, however, enjoyed virtual autonomy until 1790. The British defeated the French at Toulouse in 1814. During World War II, Toulouse was occupied by the Germans from 1942 to 1944 and suffered considerable damage.