PerpignanPerpignan (Catalan Perpinyà) is the préfecture (administrative capital city) of the département of Pyrenées-Orientales in southern France, and was the capital of the former province of Roussillon (French Catalonia). Contains 105,000 inhabitants, or 163,000 including its suburbs.
Founded around the year 900, Perpignan was the capital of the counts of Rousillon until 1172 and later was the capital of the Aragonese kingdom of Majorca, 1276 to 1344. King Philip III of France died there in 1285, as he was returning from an unsuccessful expedition into Aragon. The cathedral of St Jean was begun in 1324 and finished in 1509.
The 13th century castle of the kings of Majorca sits on the high citadel, surrounded by ramparts, reinforced for Louis XI and Charles V, which were updated in the 17th century by Louis XIV's military engineer Vauban.
Perpignan is the birthplace of Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), who painted the definitive portaits of Louis XIV. Dominique Arago (1786-1853), the physicist, astronomer and liberal politician, who secured the abolition of slavery in the French colonies in 1853, was born in a nearby village and is memorialized in a square that bears his statue.
Traditional commerce was in wine and olive oil, corks (the cork oak Quercus suber grows in Perpignan's mild climate) wool and and leather, and iron. In May 1907 it was a seat of agitation by southern producers for government enforcement of wine quality following a collapse in prices.