Perpignan is the capital of the Pyrénées-Orientales department and a city in France. It has a chequered history of disputed ownership between France and Spain because it lies very close to the border between the two countries. Back in the 13th and 14th centuries, the region was owned by the Catalan Province of Rosselló.
In 2013, the city centre of Perpignan reportedly had over 100,000 inhabitants. The total population of the district is over 300,000. Located in the centre of the Roussillon plain, the city is 13 kilometres west of the Mediterranean coast.
The River Têt and the River Basse both cross the city. This leads to floods being a frequent occurrence. For example, in 1892 an immense flood destroyed at least 39 houses rendering over 60 families homeless.
An excellent train service operates from the city providing fast connections to Paris, Barcelona, Toulouse, and several regional destinations. Perpignan–Rivesaltes International Airport is close by and serves several European destinations. The A9 motorway directly connects Perpignan with Barcelona and Montpellier.
Soon after its foundation, Perpignan became the capital city belonging to the Counts of Roussillon. In 1172 Count Girard II left all of his lands to the Catalan Counts of Barcelona. King Louis IX later gave up French feudal rights to the region, as part of the Treaty of Corbeil.
James I the Conqueror was King of Aragon, Count of Barcelona, and Lord of Montpellier. He founded the Kingdom of Majorca in 1276, making Perpignan capital of the mainland territories of his new state. The following decades are considered to be the golden age in the history of the city. It prospered as a centre of goldsmiths’ work, leather work, cloth manufacture, and other crafts considered to be “luxury goods” during this age.
King Philippe III of France died there in 1285 while returning from an unsuccessful crusade against the King of Aragon.
In 1344 Peter IV of Aragon annexed Majorca and Perpignan once more, and it became part of Barcelona. A few years later it lost over half its population to a terrible plague – The Black Death.
In 1463, Louis XI of France attacked and proceeded to occupy the city. A violent uprising against this French rule in 1473, was harshly put down after a long siege. The French gave it up to Barcelona once again in 1493, when Charles VIII preferred to concentrate his fighting efforts to thwart the Italians.
In 1642, France besieged and captured the city again during the Thirty Years’ War. After another 17 years, Spain formally ceded the region as part of the “Treaty of the Pyrenees”. It then became part of France once more, as it has remained to this day.
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