Céret is a town and commune in the French département of the Pyrénées-Orientales, corresponding to the ancient Roussillon, now part of the present-day Languedoc-Roussillon région. It lies in the foothills of the Pyrénées mountains in southwestern France.
It is the capital of an area called Vallespir. Inhabitants of Céret are called cérétans. The arms of the town, shown above, feature in chief the yellow and red arms of the old Roussillon county - which are also those of Aragon, the Kingdom of Majorca, and the modern Pyrénées-Orientales département.
The town of Céret developed during the period when the Roussillon belonged to the Kingdom of Majorca. It was during this period that the town walls were constructed to make it defensible. There were two Gateways into Céret , which you can still see today, one towards France to the north (la porte de France ) and one towards Spain to the South (la Porte d'Espagne). Ceret was besieged on many occasions and the defensive walls rebuilt several times before being largely dismantled under Napoléon (1769-1821), as were the walls of so many other medieval towns.
Chagall, Dali, Matisse and Picasso all lived here and their works hang in the Modern Art Museum here. Also works by Juan Gris, Maillol, and Dufy. Picasso's 50 or so pieces mainly consist of a series of ceramic bowls painted with bullfighting scenes and a couple of paintings, so don't expect to see many of his famous works here.
It was in Ceret that Juan Gris (1887 - 1927) one of the three most influential cubists along with Picasso and Bracque painted a mountain in the Pyrenees called Canigou in December 1921.
The Café Pablo in the town is dedicated to Picasso and The Grand Café, still operating today, was a meeting place for many famous artists in the early part of the twentieth century.
The region around Céret is major fruit producer, famed in particular for its cherries. The first of the seasons's pick are, by local tradition, sent to France's President Before polytunnels and genetic modification they were always first ripe cherries in mainland France each year. Céret hosts a cherry festival each year with activities such as drinking cherry beer and a cherry-stone spitting competition.
Céret's Saturday Market is a bustling, busy market mostly selling local produce: fruit, vegetables, cheese and wines. It is as much a social event as anything else. Like the markets at Espéraza and Miropoix it is now dominated by the large population of English, Dutch, German and Scandanavian immigrants who have moved to the Céret area since 1990, or more precisely, since Ryan Air started flying to Perpignan.
Céret also holds an annual Bullrunning festival where young bulls (usually with their horns blunted) are coralled by a group of Camargue horsemen and women and run through the streets of the town. Young men wearing traditional red and yellow Catalan outfits, chase behind in an attempt to catch hold of the bull's tail and hold on for as long as they can.
Le Pont du Diable (The Devil's Bridge) was built in 1321
when the Roussillon belonged to the Kings of Majorca (les
rois de Majorque). It is a spectacular example of medieval
architecture - a single arch of over 45 metres across the
River Tech, the keystone 25 metres above the river. According
to legend the Devil built this bridge in a single night.
The town sits at an altitude of 175-1400 meters. It is located 7 km from the Autoroute A9, 200 km from Montpellier, 250 km from Toulouse and 180 km from Barcelona. As you would expect Céret still has has a strong Catalan feel to it. You will often hear the Catalan language being spoken there.
The tourist office on avenue Clemenceau (tel: 04 68 87 00 53).
Some things to see:
- the Modern Art Museum. The museum is open from 10am till 7pm. Tel: 04 68 87 27 76
- the cherry harvest, which takes place around Easter time
- there is a sardana festival on the last-but-one Sunday of the month in August, celebrating the Catalan folk dance sardane ("Sardinia").
- there are Bullrunning here in the summer in the arena on the road to Amélie-les-Bains , on the opposite side from the market square.
- The Devil's Bridge (Le Pont du Diable) - Fouteenth century bridge over the river Tech. Listed historical structure (Classé Monument Historique).
- Ceret's north Gateways - The French Gate - La porte de France (Thirteenth century). Part of the town's fortifications and the principle entry gate. The was originally a dry ditch (fossé) along the walls, with a draw-bridge to allow people into the town. The house (maison de maître) built on to it is nineteenth century and now the médiathèque de Céret.
- Ceret's South Gateways - The Spanish Gate - Porte d'Espagne also known as the Moors' Gate - Portail des Maures, dating from the thirteenth century.
- Catalan architecture around the town
- la maison du Patrimoine archéologique Françoise
WALK AROUND OLD CERET
In front of the “Office du Tourisme”, a statue by Manolo Valdés called “The Catalane” (1923) pays homage to the composer Dëodat de Séverac (1892-1921) in a bronze plaque on the base. A town coat of arms is above the door.
Walk up to the cross roads and veer left into “Rue Michel Aribaud”. At the intersection with “Rue Pierre Rameil”, you will find the Poor Hospital built in the 14th century. The stained glass windows of the “Capelleta” (little chapel) were created in 1985 by Alfred Manessier. Above the door, a crucifix between St Peter and St Paul was built into the facade thethe 14th century listed building.
Go through the gateway and walk up the steps of the open-air theatre. High on the hills are two important buildings: on the left with the small bell-tower is the16 th century Covent of the Capucins, another listed building. It was there that the terms of Treaty of the Pyrenees were negotiated in 1660. This was the Treaty by which the Roussillon region passed from Spain to France.
In front of you is the “Castellas” and on the right, the mined wall is all that remains of the ancient castle of the lords of Céret dating from the 9th-10th century. The house with the large glass windows belonged to the painter Pierre Umne who founded the Museum of Modem Art here in 1950.
Walk up “Rue Pierre Rameil” into “Place Picasso”. In front of you is another listed building, the Gate of Spain (13th Century) where you will find the Archaeological Museum in the west tower. The arcades were built in the 14th century. Inside “Bar Le Pablo” and “Hotel Les Arcades” you can find an important collection of works by artists who have stayed in Céret.
Walk up “Boulevard Lafayette” where some of the plane trees are more than 200 years old. On the right, a great portal leads into “Métiers d’Art Saint Roch”, a small arts and crafts studio, named after a favorite local saint, Saint Roche
In “Boulevard Arago” are facades from the 19th century.
Cross “Rue Pierre Brune” , the old “long street”, which connects the castle to the village, to the “Place de la Liberté”. It was in “Place de la Liberté” that highwaymen (called the Traboucayres) were executed on June 1846.
The War Memorial, yet another listed building, is a work by Aristide Maillol called “The Ache”.
On the far side of the square, take “Rue des Evades de France” on the left, n° 3 is the large Delcros House where Pablo Picasso stayed during the summers of 1911 (with Fernande Otivier), 1912 and 1913 (with Eva Gouel). It was also home to Georges Braque in 1991 and later to Krémègne.
Go back down the “rue de la Fusterie”, On the left, on the front of n°8, a plaque shows that the building once belonged to the Guild of French Craftsmen, a guild which toured the French regions
At the end of the street, you will arrive at the “Gate of France” (13th century) which was redesigned in Italian Renaissance style in the 19th century when the adjoining building was added. It is now a listed building.
The first known ceretan bullfight took place in the 16th century in what is now the “Place de la Republique ”.
Take “Ed Joffre” on the left at n°8, in the Museum of Modern Art you will find exceptional collection of 20th century works of art. On both sides of the door are diptychs of glazed lava by Antoni Tapiês.
The next building is the Town Hall which was built as a convent in 1633. In the entrance hall is a bas-relief by Gustave Violet depicting the irrigation channel and the former town clock. In the courtyard is a statue by Francis Aggëry call “The Fingers” and three stone balls left by King Louis XI in 1542 when he ordered the town to pay a heavy fine and destroy its battlements.
Continue right into “Boulevard Jean Jaurès”. The fountain in front of the chevet of the church was made from Romanesque pieces found under the Nine Jets Fountain.
Take the next right into “Place Chaim Soutine” in front of the Hotel Vidal was decorated at the end of the 19th century with palm tress and crosses by Soubirane, the bishop of Neo Cesares in Algeria. The open space under the roof was previously kept for silk worms. The two wrought-iron weathercocks date from the early 18 th century.
Into the “rue Joan Gris” on the right. The fine Romanesque Portal was the house of Consuls, the original 13th century local administration building which is now the rectory.
At the end of the street is the “Place des Neufs Jets”. The Nine Jets Fountain was erected in 1313 during the reign of King Sanche of Mallorca. It was topped with the Lion of Castille by King Ferdinand II of Aragon —“The Catholic” — in 1493, Husband of Isabelle of Castille. On the base is the Latin inscription “Verite ceretenses leo factus es gallus” (come and see people of Céret, the lion (of Castille) has become a (French) cockerel) a reference to the Treaty of the Pyrenees under which Céret became part of the kingdom of France. This tells you pretty much all you need to know about the French state and its attitude to these possessions that still treasure their Aragonese past.
Two buildings on either side of the intersection with “Rue des Ichides” housed the Spanish delegates during the Céret Conferences in 1660 when the Treaty of the Pyrenees was concluded.
Take “Rue du Vieux Céret” down to the square and turn right to face the Eglise Saint Pierre, another listed building. This is the largest church with baroque architecture in France. It was built between 1668 and 1778 on the site of a church dating from 814. The great portal, made of Ceret marble, was constructed in 1398 and is a masterpiece of the Catalan gothic style. Two funerary stones were placed on the facade, one at the end of the 13th century and one at the beginning of the 14th
Take the “rue Anton de Siboune” towards the bell tower. This was built in the 11th century and is one of the oldest in Catalonia. Continue through the alleyway where you will find one of the oldest wells in the town, and a house built of cairós (bricks) and pebbles from the river Tech.
Continue to the end of the alley where you will find yourself back at the town hall.