It’s just 2 months ago that we’ve (temporarily?) settled in Uzès and we already feel at home in this small but vibrant little city. Uzès has little over 9.000 inhabitants which seem to be outnumbered by tourists flooding the narrow streets and famous marketplace (Place aux Herbes) during July and August. Uzès has a long history which is still reflected in its architecture and cultural openness.
In the 5th century the tolerant urban life of Uzès stood in sharp contrast to the conservative Frankish north. Jews settled in Uzès around that time and Saint Ferréol, the Bishop of Uzès admitted them to his table. After a complaint about this behavior was made to King Childebert, the Bishop was forced to change his attitude towards jews and forced all jews to leave Uzès unless the agreed to become Christians. Looks like mankind hasn’t changed a bit over the last 500 years.
In the 8th Century Uzès was fortified and became the most northern stronghold of Muslim Spain in 725. Even though it was under siege by Charles Martel in 736 it remained in Gothic-Andalusian hands until 752.
In the 13th century Uzès was home of a small community of Jewish scholars as well as a community of Chatars ( Catharism was a Christian dualist or Gnostic revival movement that thrived in some areas of Southern Europe, particularly what is now northern Italy and southern France, between the 12th and 14th centuries. The followers were known as Cathars and are now mainly remembered for a prolonged period of persecution by the Catholic Church, which did not recognise their belief as being Christian. Catharism appeared in Europe in the Languedoc region of France in the 11th century and this is when the name first appears. The adherents were sometimes known as Albigensians, after the city Albi in southern France where the movement first took hold. The belief system may have originated in Persia or the Byzantine Empire. Catharism was initially taught by ascetic leaders who set few guidelines, and, thus, some Catharist practices and beliefs varied by region and over time. The Catholic Church denounced its practices including the Consolamentum ritual, by which Cathar individuals were baptized and raised to the status of “perfect“.)Uzès remained strongly protestant which is why its churches remained untouched while numerous churches in Lanquedoc were trashed and burned by furious protestants during the wars of religion in the 16th century.
That was long ago but just 50 years ago Uzes was a run down provencal city with crumbling buildings and a diminishing population. In 1965 Uzes began with the restoration of the buildings and places to attract more people and was rewarded with the label „Ville d’art et d’histoire“ in 2008.
Uzès was also the home of Anne de Rochechouart de Mortemart (1847-1933) the Duchess of Uzès, who was strongly engaged in womens rights and the first woman in France to be allowed to drive a car.
Today Uzès is an open, multicultural city that embraces everybody with its charm, warm lights, hidden treasures, restaurants, weekly markets and friendly people. Not to forget the fast and functioning mobile network 🙂. The AVF (Acceuil des Villes Francaises) an organisation that welcomes new „inhabitants“ to the city offers many opportunities to meet others and immerse oneself into the French culture. From free conversation classes to Wednesday afternoon Petanque or joined movie nights (the last one being Woody Allan’s „A rainy day in New York“) there is a broad offering to not just live here but to integrate. Despite having more than 9.000 inhabitants, Uzès does not have single traffic light anywhere in the city which makes it a pleasure for both, pedestrians and drivers.
At this moment it feels like an endless summer but we know that winter is coming even though it will be significantly shorter than what we were used to in Switzerland. The coming months will be be quieter but offer more time to be spend with new friends, trying new recipes and reflect on what really matters in life.
One Life. Live It!