History of the town

History of the town

A rich and varied heritage

The medieval town

The first traces of human occupation date back to ancient times. A Roman oppidum on the limestone plateau overlooked the town and the river Vidourle. The 'Tiberius' Roman bridge that very certainly dates back to the time of Augustus in the 1st century BC shows the scale of movement on the Via Lutevi between Nîmes and Lodève and then further, to Toulouse. It owes its good state of conservation to the fact that it has been used constantly for 2000 years and any damage sustained was repaired. It is one of the few inhabited bridges in Europe. In the Middle Ages, the population built houses on much of the bridge and the arches thus became part of these buildings. 

The castle was mentioned from the 11th century onwards. The most visible part today is the Bermond tower, dating back to the end of the 12 century/beginning of the 13th. Sommières became an important focus for markets and fairs from the 13th century onwards. The ramparts that encircled the town formed effective defence and protection from 'Vidourlades' (floods of the river Vidourle). Dwellings were grouped below the castle around  Saint-Pons church. Crafts developed and especially tanning and the processing, manufacture and storage of woollen cloth. The numerous watermills on the banks of the Vidourle enhanced expansion of this work that lasted until the 19th century. 

Changes from the 19th century onwards

The town continued to grow after the French Revolution while the castle fell into ruin. The textile industry prospered. The outlying districts expanded. The chimneys of the factories dating back to this period can still be seen.

Today, Sommières is still an urban centre for a population of about 20,000 including people in neighbouring villages. Its famous street market and flea market bring many people from the region to Sommières on Saturdays.

Several architectural features are still visible: the castle, the Roman bridge, Saint-Pons church, the belfry, the Le Bourguet and Narbonne town gates, buildings with fine period features. The route to the castle through shady alleys and places reveals a rich and varied historical heritage.