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The history of Mende

From the heights overlooking the town, the visitor discovers a charming view with buildings nestled around its monumental Gothic cathedral. The dominating presence of the cathedral is the key to understanding the history of Mende - it symbolizes the omnipotence of the bishops and recounts the origins of this city of pilgrims, which grew up around the tomb of Saint Privat

The first traces date from the third century

At that time the inhabitants of Gevaudan wer the Gabales and their civil capital seems to have been Anderitum (Javols).
Alemannic barbarians invaded the country of the Gabales who took refuge in the fortress of Grèzes. Unable to submit to Chrocus, head of the Alemanni, Privat , Bishop of Gabales (according to Gregory of Tours), refused the ignominy of surrender, and was martyred near the caves of Mount Mimat where he had retired to pray.
Having become a famous saint, pilgrimages to his tomb to allowed the city to prosper.

The middle ages

The location of Mende, a crossroads between Auvergne and Languedoc, began to seriously promote business and crafts and it soon became a powerful and prosperous city.
In the tenth century at the latest, the Diocese moved its centre to Mende.

In the twelfth century, bishop Aldebert III Tournel became master of the city and built its walls, paying homage to King Louis VII of France.
Having obtained his favour, teh King granted Aldebart a Golden Bull giving him
 temporal power over the city.The bishops who succeeded him expanded their sphere of influence, even eclipsing the kings of France.

In 1307, the bishop and the king signed an act  paréage defining three territories in Gevaudan, the king's lands, the lands of the bishop and common land (shared). The Bishop of Mende became Count of Gevaudan, and would remain so until the Revolution.

Mende becomes an ecclesiastical principality

The town experienced the dark hours of religious wars. Despite the Protestant Reformation which converted a portion of Gevaudan, Mende remained faithful to the Catholic faith. Her motto comes from this time  "the darkness did not invade me", its arms also show this in the image of the sun.
In 1579, the Huguenot captain Mathieu Merle seized the city, decimating the clergy, and in 1581 he destroyed the cathedral and its famous bell "Francis" dubbed
"La non-pareille".

In 1721, the plague came through the gates of the city from Marseilles with its fatal destiny. The terrible epidemic ultimately caused the destruction of the ramparts in 1768,with the idea that the air would circulate more freely.

Mende becomes capital of the Lozère with the Revolution

The nineteenth century, although full of contradictions, was a century of progress.
Mende became the first departmental capital to get electric street lighting
in 1888.

The nineteenth also saw the city begin a slow descent in fortunes. The textile industry declined, disappearing completely in the twentieth century.


The city remains primarily the administrative centre of the department of Lozère.
However, this small town with its quaint provincial charm surprises those who discover it.
Unexpectedly, Mende entered the 21st century with its heritage intact but with a modern infrastructure and lots of optimism.
Mende has seen a steady increase in population over the last ten years, and universities and other training centers have decided to settle here along with many non-polluting industries. We invite you to discover why people have chosen to live here for thousands of years.

Office de Tourisme Intercommunal Mende, Coeur de Lozère

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