Maguelone Cathedral

In Languedoc, south  of Montpellier, between the Mediterranean sea and its lagoons, and just 4 km west of Palavas-les-Flots, this former bishop's palace can be found on a peninsula covered in pine trees and vineyards and appropriately nicknamed 'Cathédrale des Sables' (Cathedral of the Sands).

Bishop Arnaud caused the fortified cathedral to be rebuilt during the 11th century. Welcoming and hospitable, the site served as a place of refuge on more than one occasion over the years, and today offers visitors a chance to enjoy peace and tranquillity surrounded by sea, lagoon and vineyards.

Destroyed and rebuilt

© Photothèque Hérault Tourisme - C.Gauthier

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths founded a bishopric on the peninsula. The Saracens and Franks fought over this land during the following centuries. The cathedral was rebuilt during the 11th century by Bishop Arnaud, who also built fortified walls and a bridge to Villeneuve les Maguelone. Property of the Roman Catholic Church, it was used on several occasions as a place of asylum for pontiffs fleeing from
Rome and Italy. In 1536, the Episcopal seat
was transferred to Montpellier.

A safe haven for protestant troops.
In 1632, Richelieu obtained an order from the king to destroy the medieval fortress “to prevent buffoons from causing a breach of the peace”. A recommendation was given
however, not to 'touch the church or lodgings
of the aforementioned castle”.

After the fortifications had been dismantled and the towers razed to the ground, all that remained was the mutilated cathedral and a modest dwelling that ensured the priest could perform his holy duties. The last pieces of the walls and dressed stone found amongst the ruins were used to build the banks of the Rhone canal in Sète.

After several centuries of silence and lethargy,
Maguelone has been brought to life once again through its thousand-year-old vocation as place of safety and hospitality. Since 1969, the 'Compagnons de Maguelone' association has taken charge of the site. Its mission is primarily to conserve, restore and develop both the cathedral and its grounds, carry out archaeological research, welcome visitors
and organise events at the site.

Every June the cathedral hosts a festival of medieval and early renaissance music.


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