viernes, 12 de septiembre de 2014

Between the rails in Montpellier (France)

As part of the construction of a new tram line in Montpellier, southern France, a team of seven archaeologists from the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) were able to uncover fragments of the medieval past.
The investigations which started in July will continue until the start of October, to study the remains of the 13th century defensive walls, along with the first Carmelite House of Montpellier established just outside the city walls. Historic sources already provide various perspectives on the occupation of the area, however this current research on ‘islands’ of medieval remains between the various modern services will allow archaeologists to complete the history of the city revealed through contemporary urban developments.

City walls

In the early thirteenth century, Montpellier was enclosed by a wall known as the ‘Common Fence‘. This new fortification was part of the development of the city during the second half of the twelfth century. Current research has uncovered further fragments linked to the defensive system as it expanded to enclose the growing city; a section of ditch bordering the enclosure, and powerful walls that offered protection. In addition, the foundations for a bridge were unearthed that crossed the ditch directly in front of the Carmelites and is recognised as one of the main entrances to the city. A series of graves were also discovered near the bridge.

The Carmelite Foundation

The Carmelite Foundation was built in Montpellier in the mid-thirteenth century, in the suburb of Boutonnet, founded during the reign of Jacques I of Aragon, when the medieval city, under the guardianship of the kings of Aragon and Majorca reached its peak.
The convent housed a community of brothers linked to a Catholic order founded by hermits in the late twelfth century on Mount Carmel in Palestine. In the thirteenth century, following reconquest by Saladin of the lands taken by the Crusaders, its members took refuge in Europe where they founded small communities in cities, and it became a mendicant order.
By the late thirteenth century the Carmelites of Montpellier move from their original foundation near Boutonnet and relocated beside the city walls. Historical sources describe their new church as “one of the most beautiful in Languedoc” (P. Gariel 1665).
However, during the troubled years that marked the fourteenth century in this region, the church, situated too close to the walls to allow defence, was razed in 1361.
Pope Urban V supported the desire to restore the Carmelite Foundation, and the construction of a new church was started in 1368, with written sources indicating it contained many burials, some of whom were prominent citizens of the area.
In the sixteenth century, the Wars of Religion resulted in the destruction and final abandonment in 1562- subsequently, in the late seventeenth century, the General Hospital of Montpellier was built on part of the ruins of the buildings with the rest below the road currently being dug for the tram works.

Source: Past Horizons:

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