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Elne [1] is situated in the Pyrénées-Orientales region of south-western (France), 12 km from Perpignan and 7 km from Argelès. It has a population of 6473 (1999) and is best known for its Roman period architectural remains.



Cathédrale Sainte-Eulalie-et-Sainte-Julie
ELNE, from the heights of its fortified site, dominates the plain. Numerous archeological researches have shown that the surrounding countryside has been occupied since Neolithic times. It is the oldest town in Roussillon and since it is situated on the way towards the Iberian Peninsula, successive civilisations have left their traces. The first mention of Illiberis occurs in the work of Tite-Live, a Latin historian : Iberian city with which Hannibal negotiated his safe passage (218 B.C.). In the first century A.D. it was no more than "a modest vestige of a hitherto great city" (Pline).

In the fourth century Illiberis became "Castrum Helenae" after Helen, the mother of Constantine. Within its walls was assasinated Constant, the son of Constantine in 350 A.D.

When the Arabs crossed the Pyrenees in 719 Elne was one of the first towns to be attacked, and when the counts of Roussillon achieved independence, Perpignan became the capital of the country, with Elne remaining the Episcopal City.

The cathedral was consecrated in 1069. In 1285, under the Catalano-Aragonese domination, the town was plundered, the cathedral set fire to and the people, who had taken refuge inside, massacred by the French troops of Philip the Bold (Philip III).

In 1472 the inhabitants of Elne revolted against the French rule. The town, yet again beseiged, was conquered and its captain, Bernat d'Oms, beheaded (1474).

In 1493 Elne, along with all Roussillon, returned to the Catalano-Aragonese state.

After vicissitudes lasting two centuries the episcopal seat was transferred to Perpignan (1602).

In 1641 Elne suffered another siege by the French and after the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), became French. The ramparts were partly destroyed in 1680 on Louis XIV's orders.

Since then Elne has become an agricultural town which, in spite of repeated destructions caused by its several invaders, remains a witness to its past glories.

In the twentieth century a sculptor and a painter leave their imprint : Aristide Maillol and Etienne Terrus.

"La Pomone" by Maillol serves as the war memorial and the studio of Terrus, where Henri Matisse and André Derain were received, saw the birth of the Fauve movement.

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