From the city of Molière to the cultural capital
Exploring the historic centre of this old fair town where Molière stayed and the site of his Illustre Théâtre is an enchanting experience, like stepping back in time. In this picturesque setting, with its rich architectural heritage, and numerous art and craft stalls, the passion for theatre and language is still very much alive.
Pézenas, or “Piscenae,” as mentioned by Pliny the Elder, is a town steeped in history, a fact demonstrated by its historic, well-preserved centre.
In 1262, Pézenas joined forces with its neighbour Montagnac to organise five annual trade fairs. It established itself as a trading town when it became part of the royal estate. The Montmorency family, Governors of the Languedoc Province, made Pézenas their capital.
Its historic centre retains a distinct charm with its late 16th century residences and maze of cobbled side streets which provide a backdrop for the Maison Consulaire, the old, local seat of power, and today the Maison des métiers d’art et d’Ateliers d’Art de France (Art and Crafts Centre). The Estates of Languedoc meetings were held here until the mid 17th century.
Visit this well-preserved, historic centre, which was one of the first areas to be protected by the 1965 loi Malraux; step inside the artists’ studios where you can learn about their traditional skills and different professions: cabinet-maker, knife-maker, iron worker, enameller, mason and jewellery designer.
Discover the history of Pézenas and its prestigious heritage during guided tours.
You’ll also learn about the town’s religious heritage: the old chapel of the Penitents noirs, which was converted to a theatre in the 19th century, the old chapel that once belonged to the Ursuline convent with its remarkable furnishings, and Saint-Jean Collegiate Church and its treasury.
And along the D616 road, filled with antique and second-hand shops, you’ll stumble across the perfect piece to bring back from Pézenas!
The city of Moliere
Under the patronage of the Prince of Conti, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known as “Molière”, and his “Illustre Théâtre” troop achieved fame and glory, and from 1647 to 1657, the Province of Languedoc became their residence of choice.
Retrace Molière’s footsteps, from Gély’s barbershop stall to the Bât d’Argent inn. And don’t forget to visit the Vulliod Saint-Germain museum where you can see Molière’s armchair! The festival “Molière dans tous ses éclats” (Molière in all his glory) is held every year in June, celebrating works from his repertoire and his language.
Pezenas is a thriving town thanks to its trade and businesses, and its expanding arts and crafts sector: distilleries, tanneries, soap manufacturers etc.It is this trade that drives the large weekly Saturday market where you can find all the regional products and the famous AOP Côteaux du Languedoc Pézenas wines.
A closer look at Pézenas theatre
The theatre, which was established in 1803, reopened its doors in 2012, after undergoing restoration. It is the centre of cultural life and where the French Academy member Marcel Pagnol declared “Jean-Baptiste Poquelin was born in Paris but Molière was born in Pézenas.” The theatre, which became a listed monument in 1995, organizes performances throughout the year.
Chase away the winter blues and experience the excitement of the Pézenas carnival with the town’s iconic foal and friends, accompanied by the sound of the fife and drums.