The Town of Agde
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Agde is a small town – population just above 20,000 – on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the department of Herault in south west France (in Languedoc-Roussillon region). It is also a renowned resort – during summer month the population swells to up to 200,000 people – ten times the number of permanent inhabitants.
Agde is the third oldest town in France (after Béziers and Marseillan) being founded in the 5th century BC by Greek navigators.
The name Agde comes from the Greek Agathé which means “good” or “prosperous”.
Laying at the mouth of Herault river that flows into the sea here Agde was from the outset and up to the 18th century one of the most important maritime ports of Gaul and later of France. This status was reinforced in the 17th century first by the decision taken by the Cardinal de Richelieu in 1632 to set up at Cap d’Agde the biggest port of the western side of the Mediterranean Sea and in the second part of the same century by the construction of the Canal du Midi that flows into Herault just above the town.
The historic center of Agde is a relatively small but charming “maze” of narrow streets, flanked by houses and monuments built from black stones of volcanic origin (the region’s landscape was shaped by volcanic activity that manifested itself some 750 000 years ago) .
The foundation of the old town’s walls date from the times of ancient Greek colony - that is from 2600 years ago – and is considered to be among of the oldest fortification foundations in France.
Saint Etienne Cathedral is arguably the most outstanding of Adge’s monuments. This fortress looking edifice was built entirely of volcanic rock starting in the 12th century. Its 35 meters (115 feet) dungeon is the tallest structure of the town’s old downtown. Inside the most notable elements are its richly decorated altar – a gift from King Louis XIV – and the baroque style pulpit made of polychrome marble.
Another construction that catches the eyes of the tourists, lies actually across Herault river from the old part, inside the Belle Isle domain. It is the Laurens Palace built in 1898 in neo-classical style by Emmanuel Laurens traveler, esthete, art lover, heir to a rich wine merchants family who was born in Agde.
Each year Agde celebrates its history in a two days event called "Agde au fil du temps". For pictures and videos from the 2013 edition go here.
Nowadays Agde is also famous for its …"Naked City" - the "Village Naturiste" at Cap d'Agde, the Mediterranean seaside resort near Agde. This is a large family style naturist self-contained vacation town where nudity is the norm not only on its long 2km (1.2 mi) beach but also in its numerous restaurants, bars, shops, hotels, post-office, bank, hair salon etc.
The history of naturism at Cap d'Agde is not new but dates since after the WWII.