1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ariège
ARIÈGE, an inland department of southern France, bounded S. by Spain, W. and N. by the department of Haute-Garonne, N.E. and E. by Aude, and S.E. by Pyrénées-Orientales. It embraces the old countship of Foix, and a portion of Languedoc and Gascony. Area, 1893 sq. m. Pop. (1906) 205,684. Ariège is for the most part mountainous. Its southern border is occupied by the snow-clad peaks of the eastern Pyrenees, the highest of which within the department is the Pic de Montcalm (10,512 ft.). Communication with Spain is afforded by a large number of ports or cols, which are, however, for the most part difficult paths, and only practicable for a few months in the year. Farther to the north two lesser ranges running parallel to the main chain traverse the centre of the department from south-east to north-west. The more southerly, the Montagne de Tabe, contains, at its south-eastern end, several heights between 7200 and 9200 ft., while the Montagnes de Plantaurel to the north of Foix are of lesser altitude. These latter divide the fertile alluvial plains of the north from the mountains of the centre and south. The department is intersected by torrents belonging to the Garonne basin—the Salat, the Arize, which, near Mas d’Azil, flows through a subterranean gallery, the Ariège and the Hers. The climate is mild in the south, but naturally very severe among the mountains. Generally speaking, the arable land, which is chiefly occupied by small holdings, is confined to the lowlands. Wheat, maize and potatoes are the chief crops. Good vineyards and market gardens are found in the neighbourhood of Pamiers in the north. Flax and hemp are also cultivated. The mountains afford excellent pasture, and a considerable number of cattle, sheep and swine are reared. Poultry- and bee-farming flourish. Forests cover more than one-third of the department and harbour wild boars and even bears. Game, birds of prey and fish are plentiful. There is abundance of minerals, including lead, copper, manganese and especially iron. Grindstones, building-stone, talc, gypsum, marble and phosphates are also produced. Warm mineral springs of note are found at Ax, Aulus and Ussat. Pamiers and St Girons are the most important industrial towns. Iron founding and forging, which have their chief centre at Pamiers are principal industries. Flour-milling, paper-making and cloth-weaving may also be mentioned. Ariège is served by the Southern railway. It forms the diocese of Pamiers and belongs to the ecclesiastical province of Toulouse. It is within the circumscriptions of the académie (educational division) and of the court of appeal of Toulouse and of the XVII. army corps. Its capital is Foix; it comprises the arrondissements of Foix, St Girons and Pamiers, with 20 cantons and 338 communes. Foix, Pamiers, St Girons and St Lizier-de-Cousérans are the more noteworthy towns. Mention may also be made of Mirepoix, once the seat of a bishopric, and possessing a cathedral (15th and 16th centuries) with a remarkable Gothic spire.