BEZIERS HISTORY

"Si Deus in terris, vellet habitare Biterris"

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BEZIERS LEGENDS

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St Nazaire and St Celse

 As our cathedral has St Nazaire's name, it seemed judicious to me to tell his legend : Nazaire was born in Rome during the 1-st century, from a heathen father, named Africanus, and a pious mother named Perpétue, who had been baptized by Saint Peter.
The child learnt admirably maternal lessons and shone with its precocious virtues and his innocence. When he was nine years old, Nazaire was sought by his father to abandon Christianity; but he preferred the truth to the lie, was baptized by Saint Lin and became one of most fervent Christians of Rome. His father, irritated, used violence to overcome his firmness; but, finally, full of admiration for his son, he supplied him the means to carry out his fearless project to go to preach faith. Nazaire went through Italy, sowing the Gospel among the heathen populations and edifying them by his virtues. In Milan, the first care was to go to visit the martyrs Gervais and Protais in their prison and to strengthen them in the fight by the use of his wise words.
Captured himself as Christian, he was cruelly flogged and expelled from the city. Near the French town of Nice, he found a child named Celse who becomes his disciple. He educated him, baptized him and, from this moment, Nazaire and Celse became inseparables.

Conversions multiplied in a surprising way; Nazaire was again subjected to cruel tortures, then got again freedom with obligation not to reappear any more in this country.
So the two holy young men went through the Alps, crossing with courage immense and solitary forests, inaccessible cliffs, rare villages where lived poor idolatrous men, and arrived to Embrun, where their zeal operated miracles of conversion. Vienna, Geneva, Treves heard their voice, made eloquent by the love of Jesus Christ. Contradictions and persecution gave to their preaching a new fertility.
Condemned to drowning, they walked on water as on the ground. After this brilliant miracle, Nazaire and Celse went through the Milan road, where they were soon arrested as Christians and zealots of the faith. In the reading of the judgment of death, they joyfully hugged each other : "What an happiness for us to receive today the martyr's crown", exclaimed Nazaire ! - "I send you my gratitude, ô my God, to receive me, so young still, in Your glory.", said Celse. They were then led to a public square of Rome, where they had the head cut, at about the year 56 of the Christian era.

 Their tombs were recovered by Saint Ambroise, who described the Nazaire's body as not corrupted, "emanating a marvelous odor, without corruption and with his barb and all his hair".

by : Abbot L. Jaud, "Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année", Tours, Mame, 1950.


 From numerous years, the holidays of Caritats offered to the spectators, besides the parade of the Camel, the spectacle of the Galley. The boat, on wheels, allowed to store the blessed breads or other foodstuffs intended to be sent to the crowd during the parade. It would seem that there were even two galleys : on December 29, 1564 (others assert it was on the next January 4), Charles IX (14 years old) with his mother, were invited to watch - in front of the door of the Carmelites - a two galleys' fight. The boats were equiped with an ingenious system animated with a reeling and rolls' movement. The crew was dressed as Turks. Indeed, fashion was, during this icy winter, to wear clothes from Turkish inspiration and all the whole court was dressed in this style (baggy trousers, turbans, glimmering dresses, etc.).

 Forbidden in 1661 by the clergy and in spite of a lawsuit lost by the city, this tradition came back again in 1662.

 The galley was burned on May, 2-3, 1663 and was never reconstructed.

 The resurrection arrived in 2000 due to the Mermoz lyceum students's work :


 We all know this famous tunnel drilled in the mountain, between Colombiers and Nissan. This passage, dug at first by Romans to drain Montady's pond, was enlarged under Riquet's orders to have the Canal du Midi pass through.

 The name "Malpas" (bad passage) lets suppose the difficulty of the work.

 

 A legend is attached to this place : An hermit named Arthus had settled under the vault. This former employee of the Canal's building would have returned there after his wife, tired to wait for him, left him.
 When he saw a barge to approach, he sent a rope with a basket at its end so that bargees offered to him something to eat.
 However, this story would be in fact only a bargees' joke : in every passage, they asked the youngest deck-handfroth to prepare a basket for the hermit and to shout high and strong his name so that he gets back the provisions. As the hermit didn't answer, the crew was cheerfulness divided finally the basket's content.


 Our region possesses several animals "Totem". The "Totem" is the emblem which protects the clan. I have already evoked the Béziers' one, Lou Camel, but there are many others I am going to tell you :

 We can find two stories for this legend :
 The first come from a donkey's fair which took place on the Donkey's road. During this fair, the most beautiful donkey : "l'ane désignat", was elected and then paraded through the village with oboes's sound.
The second version would result from the village of Gignac : In the VIII-th century, during the Saracens' invasions, the Gignac's inhabitants were warned of an imminent assault by an donkey's brays, allowing them to organize resistance and to save their village.

 

 However, the aggressors took the animal and threw it in the Hérault river. Our poor animal drifted to Bessan where it was took in, cured and became since the animal fetish of the village.
 The origin of this last legend seems however to come only from the beginning of XX-th century.

 

 In 1226, the king Louis VIII made stage in Pézenas. Besides the troop, he had taken with him a magnificent mare he particularly liked. Regrettably, the animal fell ill during the stay and the King resigned to leave it to the Piscinois' care when he had to leave again. When he came back, the mare appeared healthy. During the stay, it had gave birth to a magnificent foal. This one was presented to the King, head decorated with foliages and ribbons.

 The monarch, very pleased, decided then to immortalize event by proposing the construction of a wooden foal which would be a part of all local holidays. Tradition continues still and the foal parades in the Pézénas' streets with two personages on its back : a woman and a man named : Estiennet and Estiennetto, because of a 1622's anecdote : this year, a galland field marshal took on his horse a young peasant girl to make her cross the Peyne, a Pézénas river.

 Around 1200, the consul of Montagnac's wife, Anne, suffers from a strange disease. No doctor is able to cure his sickness nor to find its roots. A rag dressed man accompanied with a beautiful white goat arrives then, in the village. The man amazes with his joy of living and his elation. The villagers, intrigued, ask him where his cheerfulness comes from. "I possess a secret giving enjoyment and health", he claims. This story is immediately reported to Jacou the Consul. This one promises to the man a big reward in exchange for his secret. "My goat gives a magic milk" the "paillous" says; "I agree to give you my "cabreta" (little goat), but you will have to feed it with grapevine's bines and grapes to keep the virtues of its milk". The deal was concluded and, after belle Anne had consumed the miraculous milk, she recovered quickly, returning enjoyment to her husband and all the villagers.

 Legend tells that Sainte Marthe, chasing the Tarasque (a legendary animal from Tarascon) which terrified the Low Valley of the Rhone, raised an army of hedgehogs to fight the monster and to protect the village. But the Tarasque didn't come and the hedgehogs were authorized to go back to their districts. Only one decided to stay in the village where it was fed and was cherished by the inhabitants who made their animal an fetish.

 If the epic of Holy Marthe against Tarasque is situated in the years 48 to 68, it seems the origin of Roujan's legend took place later : it seems to arise from a Middle Age event. This is the story:

 Around the first millennium, the consul of Roujan had offered meals and lodging to a foreigner he met along the Oum river's shore. But, it appears that this foreigner was a spy working for bandits who terrified the region.


Holy Marthe exorcising Tarasque

 All day long, the man asked numerous questions about the village defences, about the soldiers patrols, about the villagers armament, and so on. At night, in secret, the foreigner got up with the aim of leaving the village and warning his accomplices who were waiting for the attack.

 Unfortunately our man puts the foot on a hedgehog which had escaped from his cage : in these ancient times, it was usual to capture hedgehogs whose flesh was appreciated as a meal of choice. So, the spy begins to shout and growl ("rouméguer" in dialect : "lou roumégaïre" means "the grouch").

 These shouts alert the consul who gets up and realizes that the man ran away. Foreseeing events to come, he alerts the soldiers and puts the village under alert. So, at dawn, when bandits' band appears in front of fortifications, all Roujanais are presents, weapons in the hand. The effect of surprise falling so, the bandits abandon their disastrous projects and run away in the campaign, in the big enjoyment of villagers.

 So, later, when the consul told this story, he said: " O roumégat et mé sio i lébat! ". Some saw there an allusion on the foreigner, others on the hedgehog and it is this last one who continued in the course of centuries !


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