If you arrive in Perpignan by train, you should know that, according to Salvador Dali, you have reached the centre of the world, even the universe. In 1963 he proclaimed the Perpignan station to be the “Centre of the Universe” after experiencing a “cosmogonic ecstasy”. Two years later he finished the painting “La Gare de Perpignan”. Let’s remember that we are in the Catalan region, to be found on both sides of the French / Spanish border and very close to Figueras, where Dali was born, died and is buried (see my post here).
Perpignan is the capital of the “Pyrénées-Orientales” department. The city, being so close to what now is the French / Spanish border, has of course changed hands several times. It is “French”, since the end of the 17th century. It was once – 13th and 14th centuries – the continental capital of the Kingdom of Majorca, which included the Balearic Islands, the (later) French part of Catalonia... On the top of the city, you can still find the fortified Palace of the Kings of Majorca, which of course also has changed hands a number of times and added a number of defensive features, including those of Vauban during the 17th century.
The city was surrounded by defensive walls which were razed in the beginning of the 20th century. What remains is the “Castillet” from the 14th century, later a prison. The attached gate, “Portal de Nostra Dona del Pont” was added during the 15th century.
An interesting building to visit is the late 19th century “Hôtel Pams”, originally built for Pierre Bardou, a member of the cigarette rolling paper manufacturing family Bardou. The company, known as “JOB” had a workshop here. Alphonse Mucha made several advertising posters for the company. The company still exists, but has changed owners – and premises – several times.
Pierre Bardou was father-in-law of Jules Pams (1852-1930), a prominent French politician, who transformed the building to what it (more or less) looks like today.
The Perpignan cathedral, "Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Baptist", was built during the 14th and 15th centuries in what is referred to as Catalan Gothic style. The clock tower, typical for the region, was finished later, during the 18th century. The interior is very rich, golden… The organ has origins from the early 16th century.
The attached 14th century “Campo Santo” looks like a cloister, but is actually a cemetery.
There are a number of other beautiful churches in Perpignan. Some of them tend to be used for exhibitions today. In one of them we can see how, after the Revolution, the original religious painting was replaced by a “Minerve”, still there. I suppose this is a trace of what was tried for a short time; to replace the catholic religion by a deistic religion blended by the “culte decadaire”.
Among some open spaces and central buildings, we can find the 14th century “Loge de Mer”…
… the 19th century department store “Aux Dames de France” (now a Fnac shop), a statue of François Arago (known foremost as an astronomer - I have posted about him - born near Perpignan), the River Basse…