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Narbona (Occitan)
Narbo (Latin)
Montage photo narbonne.jpg
From left to right, top to bottom: The Parc des sports et de l'amitié stadium; historic department store Aux Dames de France; the Archbishop's Palace; Saint-Just-et-Saint-Pasteur Cathedral; the Médiathèque library and multi-media center; a sculpture on the stadium grounds; the Hall of Justice; Voltaire Bridge; the Narbonne Théâtre; City Hall square; Merchants' Bridge with a view of the Archbishop's Palace; the Cathedral and the Canal de la Robine; Les Halles covered market; the Palais des Sports, des Arts et du Travail sports, arts and work complex; the Espace de Liberté multi-use center; the Via Domitia; the Narbonne train station; Charles Trenet, born in Narbonne; an aerial view of the city center; former church Notre-Dame de Lamourguier, now the Lapidary Museum
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Location of Narbonne
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Coordinates: 43°11′01″N3°00′15″E / 43.1836°N 3.0042°E / 43.1836; 3.0042 Coordinates: 43°11′01″N3°00′15″E / 43.1836°N 3.0042°E / 43.1836; 3.0042
Country France
Region Occitania
Department Aude
Arrondissement Narbonne
Canton Narbonne-1, 2 and 3
Intercommunality Grand Narbonne
  Mayor (20202026) Didier Mouly [1] (PS)
172.96 km2 (66.78 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2019) [2]
  Density320/km2 (830/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Narbonnese (en) [3]
narbonnaise (fr)
Time zone UTC+01:00 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
11262 /11100
Elevation0–285 m (0–935 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Narbonne ( /nɑːrˈbɒn/ , also US: /-ˈbɔːn,-ˈbʌn/ , [4] [5] [6] French:  [naʁbɔn] ; Occitan : Narbona [naɾˈβunɔ] ; Latin : Narbo [ˈna(ː)rboː] ; Late Latin: Narbona) is a commune in Southern France in the Occitanie region. It lies 849 km (528 mi) from Paris in the Aude department, of which it is a sub-prefecture. It is located about 15 km (9 mi) from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and was historically a prosperous port.


From the 14th century it declined following a change in the course of the river Aude. It is marginally the largest commune in Aude. But the capital of the Aude department is the smaller commune of Carcassonne.


Narbonne is linked to the nearby Canal du Midi and the river Aude by the Canal de la Robine, which runs through the centre of town. It is very close to the A9 motorway, which connects Montpellier and Nîmes to Perpignan and, across the border, to Barcelona in Spain. There is also a recently renovated train station which serves the TGV to Spain, Paris and Calais, which in turn connects to the Eurostar. Narbonne is only 10 km from Narbonne Plage (beach), but it is only 2 km from the nearest open water, at La Nautique, although there is no sand, rather pebbles.


The source of the town's original name of Narbo is lost in antiquity, and it may have referred to a hillfort from the Iron Age close to the location of the current settlement or its occupants. [7] The earliest known record of the area comes from the Greek Hecataeus of Miletus in the fifth century BC, who identified it as a Celtic harbor and marketplace at that time, and called its inhabitants the Ναρβαῖοι. In ancient inscriptions the name is sometimes rendered in Latin and sometimes translated into Iberian as Nedhena.[ citation needed ]


Under the Romans

Narbonne was established in Gaul by the Roman Republic in 118 BC, as Colonia Narbo Martius, colloquially Narbo, and made into the capital of the newly established province of Gallia Transalpina. [8] It was located on the Via Domitia, the first Roman road in Gaul, built at the time of the foundation of the colony, and connecting Italy to Spain. Geographically, Narbonne was therefore located at a very important crossroads because it was situated where the Via Domitia connected to the Via Aquitania, which led toward the Atlantic through Tolosa and Burdigala. In addition, it was crossed by the river Aude. Surviving members of Julius Caesar's Legio X Equestris were given lands in the area that today is called Narbonne. [ citation needed ]

Politically, Narbonne gained importance as a competitor to Massilia (Marseille). Julius Caesar settled veterans from his 10th Legion there and attempted to develop its port while Marseille was supporting Pompey. Among the products of Narbonne, its rosemary-flower honey was famous among Romans. [9]

Later, the province of Gallia Transalpina was renamed Gallia Narbonensis after the city, which became its capital. Seat of a powerful administration, the city enjoyed economic and architectural expansion. At that point, the city is thought to have had 30,000–50,000 inhabitants, and may have had as many as 100,000. [10]

Under the Visigoths

According to Hydatius, in 462 the city was handed over to the Visigoths by a local military leader in exchange for support, as a result Roman rule ended in the city. It was subsequently the capital of the Visigothic province of Septimania, the only territory from Gaul to fend off the Frankish thrust after the Battle of Vouille (507). In 531, Frankish king, Childebert I, invaded Septimania and defeated Visigothic king, Amalaric near Narbonne and occupied the city. However, after Childebert's continued invasion to Catalonia failed, Amalaric's successor Theudis was able to reclaim the rich province of Septimania, including Narbonne. [11] Following the loss of Toledo and Barcelona in 711/712, the last two kings of the Visigoths, Agila II and Ardo retreated to Narbonne, where they were able to resist Muslim attacks until 716.

Under the Arabs

Umayyad troops leaving Narbonne to Pepin le Bref, in 759. Painting of 1880 Muslim troops leaving Narbonne to Pepin le Bref in 759.jpg
Umayyad troops leaving Narbonne to Pépin le Bref, in 759. Painting of 1880

For 40 years, from 719 to 759, Narbonne was part of the Umayyad Caliphate. The Umayyad governor Al-Samh captured Narbonne from The Kingdom of Visigoths in 719.

Under the Carolingians

Narbonne in the late 19th century Narbonne. 3 - Fonds Trutat - 51Fi391.jpg
Narbonne in the late 19th century

The Carolingian Pepin the Short conquered Narbonne from the Arabs in 759 after which it became part of the Carolingian Viscounty of Narbonne. He invited [ citation needed ] prominent Jews from the Caliphate of Baghdad to settle in Narbonne and establish a major Jewish learning center for Western Europe. [12] In the 12th century, the court of Ermengarde of Narbonne (reigned 1134 to 1192) presided over one of the cultural centers where the spirit of courtly love was developed.

Under the Capets

In the 11th and 12th centuries, Narbonne was home to an important Jewish exegetical school, which played a pivotal role in the growth and development of the Zarphatic (Judæo-French) and Shuadit (Judæo-Provençal) languages. Jews had settled in Narbonne from about the 5th century, with a community that numbered about 2,000 people in the 12th century. At this time, Narbonne was frequently mentioned in Talmudic works in connection with its scholars. One source, Abraham ibn Daud of Toledo, gives them an importance similar to the exilarchs of Babylon. [13] In the 12th and 13th centuries, the community went through a series of ups and downs before settling into extended decline.

Narbonne loses its river and port

In the old town Narbonn.JPG
In the old town

Narbonne itself fell into a slow decline in the 14th century, for a variety of reasons. One was due to a change in the course of the river Aude, which caused increased silting of the navigational access. The river, known as the Atax in ancient times, had always had two main courses which split close to Salelles; one fork going south through Narbonne and then to the sea close to the Clappe Massif, the other heading east to the etang at Vendres close to the current mouth of the river well to the east of the city. The Romans had improved the navigability of the river by building a dam near Salelles and also by canalising the river as it passed through its marshy delta to the sea (then as now the canal was known as the Robine.) A major flood in 1320 swept the dam away. The Aude river had a long history of overflowing its banks. When it was a bustling port, the distance from the coast was approximately 5 to 10 km (3 to 6 mi), but at that time the access to the sea was deep enough when the river was in full spate which made communication between port and city unreliable.[ contradictory ] [14] However, goods could easily be transported by land and in shallow barges from the ports (there were several: a main port and forward ports for larger vessels; indeed the navigability from the sea into the etang and then into the river had been a perennial problem)

Narbonne circa 1780 Narbonne cassini old.JPG
Narbonne circa 1780

The changes to the long seashore which resulted from the silting up of the series of graus or openings which were interspersed between the islands which made up the shoreline (St. Martin; St. Lucie) had a more serious impact than the change in course of the river. Other causes of decline were the plague and the raid of Edward, the Black Prince, which caused much devastation. The growth of other ports was also a factor.

Narbonne Cathedral

Part of the unfinished section of the Cathedral Saint-Just-et-Saint-Pasteur. Cathedrale-inachevee.JPG
Part of the unfinished section of the Cathedral Saint-Just-et-Saint-Pasteur.

Narbonne Cathedral, dedicated to Saints Justus and Pastor, provides stark evidence of Narbonne's sudden and dramatic change of fortunes when one sees at the rear of the structure the enormously ambitious building programme frozen in time, for the cathedral—still one of the tallest in France—was never finished. The reasons are many, but the most important is that the completed cathedral would have required demolishing the city wall. The 14th century also brought the plague and a host of reasons for retaining the 5th-century (pre-Visigothic) walls.

Yet the choir, side chapels, sacristy, and courtyard remain intact, and the cathedral, although no longer the seat of a bishop or archbishop, remains the primary place of worship for the Roman Catholic population of the city, and is a major tourist attraction.

Building of the Canal de la Robine

The Canal de la Robine in 2003. (Taken from the "Passerelle entre Deux Villes" pedestrian bridge, facing northwest, away from the heart of the city.) Narbonne-Canal de la Robine.jpg
The Canal de la Robine in 2003. (Taken from the "Passerelle entre Deux Villes" pedestrian bridge, facing northwest, away from the heart of the city.)

From the sixteenth century, eager to maintain a link to important trade, the people of Narbonne began costly work to the vestiges of the river Aude's access to the sea so that it would remain navigable to a limited draft vessel and also serve as a link with the Royal Canal. This major undertaking resulted in the construction of the Canal de la Robine, which was finally linked with the Canal du Midi (then known as the Royal Canal) via the Canal de Jonction in 1776.

In the 19th century, the canal system in the south of France had to compete with an expanding rail network, which could ship goods more quickly. The canals kept some importance as they were used to support the flourishing wine trade.

Despite its decline from Roman times, Narbonne held on to its vital but limited importance as a trading route. This has continued in more recent centuries.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 9,050    
1800 9,086+0.06%
1806 9,464+0.68%
1821 9,940+0.33%
1831 10,246+0.30%
1836 10,762+0.99%
1841 11,907+2.04%
1846 11,427−0.82%
1851 13,066+2.72%
1856 14,300+1.82%
1861 16,062+2.35%
1866 17,172+1.35%
1872 17,266+0.09%
1876 19,968+3.70%
1881 28,134+7.10%
1886 29,702+1.09%
1891 29,566−0.09%
1896 27,824−1.21%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 28,852+0.73%
1906 27,039−1.29%
1911 28,173+0.83%
1921 28,956+0.27%
1926 29,841+0.60%
1931 31,909+1.35%
1936 30,047−1.20%
1946 29,975−0.02%
1954 32,060+0.84%
1962 33,891+0.70%
1968 38,441+2.12%
1975 39,342+0.33%
1982 41,565+0.79%
1990 45,849+1.23%
1999 46,510+0.16%
2007 51,306+1.23%
2012 51,869+0.22%
2017 54,700+1.07%
Source: EHESS [15] and INSEE (1968-2017) [16]
The Cloister of the Archbishop's Palace Cathedrale Saint-Just de Narbonne - Cloitre et clocher de l'eglise de Theodard.jpg
The Cloister of the Archbishop's Palace



Narbonne is home to the rugby union team RC Narbonne founded in 1907. They play at the Parc des Sports Et de l'Amitié (capacity 12,000). They wear orange and black.


The Gare de Narbonne railway station offers direct connections to Paris, Barcelona, Toulouse, Marseille and many regional destinations. An extensive local system of buses and routes operated by allow for easy public transport within Narbonne and surrounding communities. Travellers wishing to connect by plane arrive by airports in nearby Béziers, Carcassonne, Perpignan, Toulouse or Montpellier, as Narbonne does not have an airport.


See also

International relations

Narbonne is twinned with:

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Further reading