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Pyrenees-Orientales

PYRENEES-ORIENTALES, a department of south-western France, bordering on the Mediterranean and the Spanish frontier, formed in 1790 of the old province of Roussillon and of small portions of Languedoc. The population, which includes many Spaniards, numbered 213,171 in 1906. Area, 1599 sq. m.

The department is bounded N. by Ariege and Aude, E. by the Mediterranean, S. by Catalonia and W. by the republic of Andorra. Its borders are marked by mountain peaks, on the north by the Corbieres, on the north-west and south-west by the eastern Pyrenees, on the extreme south-east by the Alberes, which end in the sea at Cape Cerbera. Spurs of these ranges project into the department, covering its whole surface, with the exception of the alluvial plain of Roussillon, which extends inland from the sea-coast. Deep and sheltered bays in the vicinity of Cape Cerbera are succeeded farther north by flat sandy beaches, along which lie lagoons separated from the sea by belts of sand. The lagoon of St Nazaire is 2780 acres in extent, and that of Leucate on the borders of Aude is 19,300 acres. Mont Canigou (9137 ft.), though surpassed in height by the Carlitte Peak (9583 ft.), is the most remarkable mountain in the eastern Pyrenees, since it stands out to almost its full height above the plain, and exhibits with great distinctness the succession of zones of vegetation. From the base to a height of 1400 ft. are found the orange, the aloe, the oleander, the pomegranate and the olive; the vine grows to the height of 1800 ft.; next come the chestnut (2625 ft.), the rhododendron (from 4330 to 8330 ft.), pine (6400), and birch (6560) ; while stunted junipers grow to the The drainage of the department is shared by the Tet and the Tech, which rise in the Pyrenees, and the Agly, which rises in the Corbieres. All three flow eastwards into the Mediterranean. The Aude, the Ariege (an affluent of the Garonne) and the Segre (an affluent of the Ebro) also take their rise within the department and include a small part of it in their respective basins. The Tet at the foot of the Carlittc Peak and descends rapidly ,i very narrow valley before it debouches at I He (between 1'r.nh's and Perpignan) upon the plain of Roussillon, where it flows over a wide pebbly bed and supplies numerous canals for irrigation. It is nowhere navigable, and its supply of water varies much with the seasons, all the more that it is not fed by any glacier. The Agly, which soon after its rise traverses the magnificent gorge of St Antoine de Calamus and, nearing its mouth, passes Riyesaltes (famous for its wines), serves almost exclusively for irrigation. The Tech, which after the Tet is the most important river of the department, flows through Vallespir (vallis aspera,) which, notwithstanding its name, is a green valley, clothed with wood and alive with industry; in its course the river passes Prats de Mollo and Arli-s-sur-Tech, before reaching Amelie-les-Bains and C6ret. In the lowlands the climate is that of the Mediterranean, characterized by mild winters, dry summers and short and sudden rain-storms. Am<51ie-les-Bains is much frequented on account of its mild climate and sheltered position. The thermometer ranges from 85 to 95 F. in summer, and in winter only occasionally falls as low as 26 or 27. The mean amount of the rainfall is 27 in. on the coast, but increases towards the hills. The most common wind is the tramontane from N.N.W., as violent as the mistral of Provence and extremely parching. The marinada blows from the S.S.E.

The cultivated land in Pyrenees-Orientales is devoted to wine-growing, market-gardening and fruit culture, the production of cereals being comparatively unimportant. The main source of wealth to the department is its wine, of which some kinds are strongly alcoholic and others are in request as liqueur wines (Rivesaltes, Banyuls). The cultivation of early vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, green peas), which is specially flourishing in the irrigated lowlands, and fruit-growing (peaches, apricots, plums, pears, quinces, pomegranates, almonds, apples, cherries, walnuts, chestnuts), which is chiefly carried on in the river valleys, yield abundant returns. The woods produce timber for the cabinet-maker, cork, and bark for tanning. Large flocks of sheep feed in the pastures of the Pyrenees and Corbieres; the keeping of silkworms and bees is also profitable. In iron Pyr6nees-Orientales is one of the richest departments in France, the greater part of the ore being transported to the interior. Lignite and various kinds of stone are worked. The mineral waters are much resorted to. Amelie-les-Bains has hot springs, chalybeate or sulphurous. In the arrondissement of Ceret there are also the establishments of La-Preste-les-Bains, near Prats de Mollo, with hot sulphurous springs, and of Le Boulou, the Vichy of the Pyrenees. Near Prades are the hot sulphurous springs of Molitg, and a little north of Mont Canigou are the hot springs of Vernet, containing sodium and sulphur. In the valley of the Tet the sulphurous and alkaline springs of Thues reach a temperature of 172 F. The baths of Les Escaldas, near Montlouis, are hot, sulphurous and alkaline. There are oil-works and sawmills, and the manufactures of the department include the making of whiphandles, corks, cigarette paper, barrels, bricks, woollen and other cloths, and espadrilles (a kind of shoe made of coarse cloth with esparto soles). Of the ports of the department Port Vendres alone has any importance. Imports include timber, Spanish and Algerian wine, cereals, coal; among the exports are wine, timber, vegetables, fruit, honey, oil and manufactured articles. The department is served by the Southern railway. The chief route across the Pyrenees is from Perpignan by way of Montlouis, a fortified place, to Puigcerda, in the Spanish province of Gerona, through the pass of La Perche, skirting in the French department an enclave of Spanish territory. Three other roads run from Perpignan to Figueras through the passes of Perthus (defended by the fort of Bellegarde), Banyuls and Balistres, the last-named being traversed by a railway. The chief towns of the three arrondissements are Perpignan, Ceret and Prades; there are 17 cantons and 232 communes. The department constitutes the diocese of Perpignan, and is attached to the appeal court and the academy of Montpellier and to the region of the XVI. army corps, of which Perpignan is the headquarters.

Perpignan, the capital town and a fortress of the first class, Amelie-les-Bains and Elne are the more noteworthy places, and are treated separately. Rivesaltes (5448) is the most populous town after Perpignan. Other places may be mentioned. Planes has a curious church, triangular in shape, and of uncertain date. Popular tradition ascribes to it a Moslem origin. The church and cloister at Arles-sur-Tech are also of the 12th century. Boule-d'Amont has a Romanesque church which once belonged to the Augustine abbey of Serrabona. It is peculiar in that its aisles open out into lateral porches, instead of communicating with the nave. The church of Casteil, which is of the i ith century, is a relic of the ancient abbey of St Martin de Canigou. At St Michel-de-Guxa, near Prades, are fine ruins of a Benedictine abbey. The hamlet of Fontromeu, near Odeillo, has a chapel with a statue of the Virgin, which is visited by numerous pilgrims.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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