1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Perpignan
PERPIGNAN, a town of south-western France, capital of the department of Pyrénées-Orientales, on the right bank of the Têt, 7 m. from the Mediterranean and 42 m. S. by W. of Narbonne by rail. Pop. (1906), town, 32,683; commune, 38,898. The north-west quarter of the town is traversed by the Basse, a tributary of the Têt, while to the south it is overlooked by a citadel enclosing a castle (13th century) of the kings of Majorca. The chapel is remarkable as being a mixture of the Romanesque, Pointed and Moorish styles. The ramparts surrounding the citadel are the work of Louis XI., Charles V. and Vauban. The sculptures and caryatides still to be seen on the gateway of the citadel were placed there by the duke of Alva. The cathedral of St Jean was begun in 1324 and finished in 1509. The most noteworthy feature in the building is an immense reredos of white marble (early 17th century) by Bartholomew Soler of Barcelona.
In the north of the town commanding the gateway of Notre-Dame (1481) there stands a curious machicolated stronghold known as the Castillet (14th and 15th centuries), now used as a prison. The buildings of the old university (18th century) contain the library and the museum, the latter possessing the first photographic proofs executed by Daguerre and a collection of sculptures and paintings. Statues of François Arago, the astronomer, and Hyacinthe Rigoud, the painter, stand in the squares named after them.
Perpignan is a fortiied place of the first class, and seat of a prefect, a bishop and a court of assizes, and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce, a branch of the Bank of France, a communal college for boys, a school of music and training colleges for both sexes. The higher tribunal of Andovic sits at Perpignan. Trade is in wine, iron, wool, oil, corks and leather.
Perpignan dates at least from the 10th century. In the 11th and 12th centuries it was a capital of the counts of Roussillon. from whom it passed in 1172 to the kings of Aragon. Philip the Bold, king of France, died there in 1285, as he was returning from an unsuccessful expedition into Aragon. At that time it belonged to the kingdom of Majorca, and its sovereigns resided there until, in 1344, that small state reverted to the possession of the kings of Aragon, who in 1349 founded a university at Perpignan. When Louis XI. occupied Roussillon as security for money advanced by him to the king of Aragon, Perpignan resisted the French arms for a considerable time, and only yielded through stress of fam1ne (March 15, 1475). Rousslllon was restored to Aragon by Charles VIII. and Perpignan was again besieged in 1542 under Francis I, but without success. Later on, however, the inhabitants, angered by the tyranny and cruelty of the Spanish governor, surrendered the town to Louis XIII. The citadel held out until the 9th of September 1642, and the place has ever s1nce belonged to France, to which it was formally ceded by the treaty of the Pyrenees (1659). In 1602 the bishopric of Elne was transferred to Perpignan.
See P. Vibal, Perpignan depuis les origines jusqu' à nos jours (Paris, 1898).