MONTPELLIER, FRANCE, a town of southern France, capital of the department of Herault, about 7 m. from the Mediterranean, and 31 m. S.W. of Mimes on the Paris-Lyon railway between that town and Cette. Pop. (1906), 65,983. Montpellier, the seat of a university and the principal place of lower Languedoc, is situated in a fruitful plain less than a mile from the right bank of the small river Lez. Composed for the most part of narrow winding streets, the town has at the same time several spacious thoroughfares and some fine squares and promenades, notably the muchfrequented Place de la Comedie, the Esplanade and the Peyrou. The last . terminates in a terrace commanding a magnificent view of the coasts of the Mediterranean, and of the Pyrenees and Alps. On the terrace is situated the reservoir of the town, the water being brought from a distance of about 8 m. by an aqueduct. In the centre of the square is an equestrian statue of Louis XIV., while opposite the entrance is the Porte de Peyrou, a triumphal arch erected at the end of the 17th century to commemorate the achievements of Louis XIV. The Boulevard Henri IV. to the north leads past the botanical garden, founded in 1593 and thus the oldest in France, the medical college, and the cathedral; to the east the Rue Nationale leads to the palace of justice, the prefecture, and the citadel. The cathedral (14th century), which until 1536 was the church of a Benedictine monastery, suffered severely during the religious wars, and about the middle of the 19th century the choir and one of the four towers at the angles of the nave were rebuilt in the style of the 13th century. The monastery, after being converted into the bishop's palace, has since 1795 been occupied by the famous medical school. A gallery devoted to the portraits of professors since 1239 contains one of Rabelais. Close to the medical school is the Tour des Pins, the chief relic of the medieval fortifications. The museum (Musee Fabre) contains rich collections of Italian, Flemish, Dutch and modern French paintings and of French sculptures. Its nucleus was the collection given to it by the painter F. X. P. Fabre (1766-1837), born at Montpellier. The principal public buildings are the palace of justice a modern structure, the theatre and the prefecture, also modern. Montpellier possesses old houses of the isth and 16th centuries. The Lez is canalized so as to connect Montpellier with the canal du Midi and with the sea at Palavas. The town has a considerable trade in wine, brandy, fruit and silk. The principal industrial establishment is a manufactory for candles and soap. There are also tanneries, distilleries and manufactories of cotton and woollen goods, chemicals, casks, hosiery and chocolate. The town is the centre of an acad&mie (educational division) and has long been renowned as a seat of learning. Montpellier university comprises faculties of medicine, law, science and letters, and a higher school of pharmacy. Montpellier is also the seat of a bishop and a prefect, of courts of appeal and assizes, tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce, a board of trade arbitration, and headquarters of the XVI. army corps.
Montpellier first rose into importance after the destruction of Maguelonne by Charles Martel in 737. In the 10th century it consisted of two portions, Montpellier and Montpellieret, held from the bishops of Maguelonne by the family of Guilhem. The Guilhems were succeeded, through marriage, by the house of Aragon, a member of which in 1349 sold his rights to Philip of Valois, Montpellieret having already in 1292 been ceded to the Crown by the bishops. In 1141 Montpellier acquired a charter afterwards materially extended, and the same century saw the rise of its school of medicine. Several of the ablest teachers of that school were members of an important Jewish colony established in the town. It had a school of law in 1 160, and a university was founded by Pope Nicholas IV. towards the close of the 13th century. Louis IX. granted to Montpellier the right of free trade with the whole of the kingdom, a privilege which greatly increased its prosperity. The importance of the town was enhanced when the bishopric of Maguelonne was transferred thither in 1536. During the wars of religion the town was a stronghold of the Protestants, who captured it in 1567. It strenuously supported the duke of Rohan in his revolts and in 1622 only succumbed to Louis XIII. after a siege of eight months. In 1628 the duke was defeated there and the walls of the town razed, the royal citadel built in 1624 being, however, spared. Louis XIII. made Montpellier the seat of one of the gtneralites of Languedoc, and the states of that province met there during the 17th and 18th centuries.
See A. C. Germain, Hisloire du commerce de Montpellier anterieurement <i I'ouverture du port de Cette (2 vols., Montpellier, 1861), and Histoire de la commune de Montpellier (3 vpls., Montpellier, 1851); Aigrefeuille, Histoire de la ville de Montpellier (4 Vols., Montpellier, 1875-1882).