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Historique de la ville de Castres Despite its Latin origins, “castrum”, the city was not founded by the Romans, even though the discovery of a Gallo-Roman villa at Gourjade does prove their presence there in the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD. The site was occupied during the Iron Age, in the 8th Century BC, but the origins of the city go back to the 9th Century (810AD) with the foundation of a Benedictine abbey. The monks brought with them the relics of Saint Vincent of Saragossa (patron saint of the city), for which a basilica was built. Castres became one of the stopover point of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrims who had chosen the Arles route. Though at the heart of the Cathar heresy, the city did not openly get involved and submitted to Simon de Monfort. In 1317 the city was established as an episcopal see and remained so until 1790. During the Religious Wars, Castres being a huguenot bastion, became a fortified town and a number of monastic buildings were destroyed.

In 1595, Henri IV established in Castres the Chambre de l’Edit, a law court composed of catholic and protestant judges for the rendering of a fairer justice. It was the beginning of one of its most prosperous periods. Some beautiful town houses were built and participated in the rebirth of Castres (of particular interest are rue Gabriel Guy, Chambre de l’Edit, rues Victor-Hugo, Montlédier, Sabaterie, Boursiers, Frédéric-Thomas…). A Literary Academy was created by a group of local scholars. The cultural expansion was accompanied by an economic expansion thanks to the work of wool, leather and paper craftsmen. Castres asserted its textile vocation. The 17th Century bequeathed Castres with some remarkable architectural treasures, in particular the Episcopal Palace, the work of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, which today houses the Town Hall and the Goya Museum. It was further enhanced by a formal garden designed according to the plans of André Le Nôtre.

Historique de la ville de Castres

Throughout the 19th century, the industrial development enhanced the city with several facilities, among which a large royal square (today Place Jean Jaurès), and a covered market on the Place de l’Albinque (today Place Pierre Fabre). The year 1859 saw the birth of Jean Jaurès. In 1893, Marcel Briguiboul, a wealthy trader and artist, bequeathed three oil paintings by the Aragon master Francisco de Goya y Lucientes. The museum which houses them was given the name of Goya Museum in 1947.It houses today the second most important collection of Hispanic art in France after the Louvre in Paris.