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A general view of Pézenas
A general view of Pézenas
Coat of arms of Pézenas
Location of Pézenas
Pézenas is located in France
Pézenas is located in Occitanie
Coordinates: 43°27′38″N 3°25′25″E / 43.4606°N 3.4236°E / 43.4606; 3.4236
IntercommunalityCA Hérault Méditerranée
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Armand Rivière[1]
29.56 km2 (11.41 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2019)[2]
 • Density270/km2 (700/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
34199 /34120
Elevation3–96 m (9.8–315.0 ft)
(avg. 15 m or 49 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Pézenas (French pronunciation: ​[pez(ə)nas]; Languedocien: Pesenàs) is a commune in the Hérault department in the Occitanie region in southern France.


The name "Pézenas" is derived from the older name Piscenae, probably from the Latin word piscenis, meaning fishpond. According to legend, there was a lake full of fish behind the château. Inhabitants of Pézenas are Piscenois.


The origins of Pézenas are unclear, but were influenced by three factors: water from the River Peyne, an ancient pre-Roman route from Rodez to Saint-Thibéry and a defensive hill site.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 7,149—    
1800 6,903−0.50%
1806 8,059+2.61%
1821 8,250+0.16%
1831 7,847−0.50%
1836 7,978+0.33%
1841 7,759−0.56%
1846 7,713−0.12%
1851 7,375−0.89%
1856 7,215−0.44%
1861 7,204−0.03%
1866 7,574+1.01%
1872 7,314−0.58%
1876 7,966+2.16%
1881 7,364−1.56%
1886 6,927−1.22%
1891 6,720−0.60%
1896 6,595−0.37%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 7,073+1.41%
1906 6,928−0.41%
1911 6,940+0.03%
1921 6,946+0.01%
1926 7,327+1.07%
1931 7,364+0.10%
1936 6,937−1.19%
1946 6,397−0.81%
1954 6,530+0.26%
1962 7,198+1.22%
1968 9,103+3.99%
1975 7,707−2.35%
1982 7,519−0.35%
1990 7,613+0.16%
1999 7,443−0.25%
2007 8,478+1.64%
2012 8,317−0.38%
2017 8,280−0.09%
Source: EHESS[3] and INSEE (1968-2017)[4]


Pézenas has had a protected area (Secteur sauvegardé) since June 1965 - the 14th created by the French Ministry of Culture. The ministry lists 118 historical edifices in Pézenas,[5] more than 30 of which are protected after being classified "Historical Monuments". The main sights include:

  • The old town centre with narrow streets and Hôtel Privet or Mansions (rather grand Town Houses from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, when Pézenas was the seat of the Governors of Languedoc): hôtel de Lacoste, hôtel de Carrion-Nizas, hôtel de Landes de Saint Palais, hôtel Flottes de Sebazan, hôtel d'Alfonce, hôtel Malibran, hôtel l'Epine, hôtel Grasset.
  • The Collégiale Saint-Jean church (18th century), designed by Jean-Baptiste Franque, contains an organ by Jean François Lépine.
  • Church of Saint-Jean-de-Bébian, romanesque, classed as a Monument historique (historic monument).
  • The church of Sainte-Ursule, built in 1686 by the master mason Antoine Carrier, became the parish church after the Concordat.
  • Molière Monument (1897) by Jean-Antoine Injalbert.
  • Theatre: originally a church built in 1590 - the Chapelle des Pénitents Noirs (chapel of the Black Penitents). After the French Revolution, it was sold as a national asset and converted to a theatre in 1803. Its present internal appearance dates from a general renovation between 1899 and 1901. Subsequently, unchanged, it was used as a theatre until it closed in 1947. The building contains souvenirs of Molière. The property of the commune, the theatre has been classified since 1995 as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.[6] Following more than 10 years of renovation, the richly decorated theatre reopened in May 2012 and may be visited by the public.[7]
  • L'illustre Théâtre: theatre in converted warehouse, with performances all year round.
  • Musée de Vulliod Saint-Germain: museum with collections illustrating the town's history and a room dedicated to Molière. The hôtel particulier that hosts the museum was donated to the city by François, Baron de Vulliod, during the Second World War.
  • Door museum
  • Toy museum


  • Road: Route nationale 9, which used to pass through the town centre, was replaced by a bypass which now forms the part of the A75 autoroute from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers.
  • Rail: The nearest main line station is Agde. Two single track lines used to serve Pézenas. The track from Béziers has been removed, though the station (Gare du Nord) still exists as a cultural centre. Although notionally still part of the national rail network, in reality the line from Vias, near Agde, is closed. It was used into the 21st century by occasional freight trains serving a quarry further north. Since at least 2011, a section at St Thibéry, some five miles (8.0 km) to the south of Pézenas, is in use as a 'Pedalorail' leisure facility. However, the track remains in place throughout and the Gare du Midi is extant and in use as a medical centre.
  • Air: The nearest international airport is Béziers Cap d'Agde Airport. Daily flights to Paris Orly ceased in early 2009. Since 2008, international services have been established, currently to the UK, Belgium, Germany and Sweden. There are also flights to Beauvais.[8] Montpellier, Nîmes, Perpignan and Carcassonne airports are all within easy reach. A small grass airstrip at nearby Nizas was closed in 2014 for the expansion of a quarry.


Pézenas was the birthplace of:

People linked with Pézenas

Local specialities

  • Le petit pâté de Pézenas: a small sweet/savoury pie supposedly made to a recipe from Clive of India. (see below)
  • Le berlingot de Pézenas: boiled sugar sweets

Le petit pâté de Pézenas

The size and shape of a large cotton reel, these little sweet, spiced mutton pies are a golden brown, with crispy pastry and a moist, sweet interior. They can be eaten as an hors d'oeuvre, with a salad or as a dessert. They are cooked in patisseries all over the town, but their origin is far from local. Tradition has it that Lord Clive brought the recipe from India and taught it to the pastry makers of Pézenas when he was staying at the Château de Larzac in 1768. It is more likely that his servants were responsible.

In the BBC TV programme MasterChef: The Professionals, broadcast on 27 November 2012, Michel Roux, Jr. demonstrated how to cook the dish and set it as the classic recipe for contestants to make.[9]

Le Poulain de Pézenas

The Poulain from Pézenas (visiting Steenvoorde, in northeast France, for the Festival of Giants in 2006)
The Poulain from Pézenas (visiting Steenvoorde, in northeast France, for the Festival of Giants in 2006)

Like several of the surrounding towns and villages, Pézenas has a "totem animal"; in this case a huge hobby horse called Le Poulain (lo poulain or lo polin in Occitan), which means "the colt". It is said to commemorate a visit to the town in 1226 by Louis VIII, during which the king's favourite mare fell ill. She had to be left behind in Pézenas while Louis continued with the Albigensian Crusade. On his return he was astonished to find that not only was his mare now fully recovered, but she had also given birth to a fine colt, which was duly presented to him, adorned with ribbons. In return he decreed that the town should construct a wooden colt to be used to celebrate all its public festivities. The first mention of the custom is in 1615. The earliest publication of the legend accounting for the horse's existence dates from 1701.[10]

The Poulain appears for Mardi Gras and other festive occasions.[11] It is carried by nine men and led by another, accompanied by a band of musicians. The Poulain has a realistically carved wooden head, with snapping jaws and an extending neck that can reach up to first-floor windows; l'obole (small amounts of money) or other offerings put into its mouth tumble down inside its neck. Its semi-cylindrical body is covered with a dark blue cloth decorated with stars and the coat of arms of Pézenas. Below the frame it has a tricolor skirt.[12]

The Poulain carries two effigies on its back, one male, one female, called Estieinou and Estieinette or Estieineta (sometimes spelled Estiénon and Estiéneta in the French manner), recalling another royal occasion when Louis XIII visited the town in 1622. A follower of the King, the Maréchal de Bassompierre, was crossing the river Peyne on horseback. He saw a peasant-woman attempting the crossing on foot and gallantly offered her a seat on his horse. The unlikely couple's arrival in the town caused great amusement and the two effigies were made to remember the event.[13]

International relations

Pézenas is twinned with Market Drayton, England, birthplace of Lord Clive, Clive of India

See also


  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les maires" (in French)., Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises. 13 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Populations légales 2019". The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 29 December 2021.
  3. ^ Des villages de Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui: Commune data sheet Pézenas, EHESS. (in French)
  4. ^ Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  5. ^ Base Mérimée: Search for heritage in the commune, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  6. ^ Base Mérimée: Théâtre, ancienne église des Pénitents Noirs, Ministère français de la Culture. (in French)
  7. ^ Pézenas Val d'Hérault Guide touristique 2013 - 2014, p12
  8. ^ Destinations, Aeroport Béziers Cap d'Agde. Retrieved 10 Augusat 2020.
  9. ^ MasterChef: The Professionals, episode 14, series 5
  10. ^ Bastian, Jean-Marie, "Le Poulain, Pézenas", pp2–4, Cercle de Collectionneurs de Pézenas, May 2009
  11. ^ Bastian, Jean-Marie, "Le Poulain, Pézenas", pp6–&, Cercle de Collectionneurs de Pézenas, May 2009
  12. ^ Bastian, Jean-Marie, "Le Poulain, Pézenas", pp9–10 & 22, Cercle de Collectionneurs de Pézenas, May 2009
  13. ^ Bastian, Jean-Marie, "Le Poulain, Pézenas", pp2–3, Cercle de Collectionneurs de Pézenas, May 2009

Further reading

  • Bonnefont, Marie Elise, Pézenas: le temps d'une balade (Bonnefont, 2003) ISBN 2-9520940-0-4

External links

This page was last edited on 28 November 2022, at 08:46
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