Collioure – the picturesque pearl of the MediterraneanÄlgbert Elgson
Dieser Artikel ist auch in Deutsch verfügbar.
The picturesque town of Collioure is located on the Côte Vermeille north of the Pyrenees. In this case, painterly is a very appropriate term – many painters visited the small fishing village at the beginning of the 20th century. These include artists such as Henri Matisse accompanied by André Derain, Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, Foujita, Othon Friesz, Juan Gris, Albert Marquet and Pablo Picasso.
In the Brasserie Hôtel des Templiers on the Quai de l’Amirauté there are countless original works of art by these artists, as they also liked to stop there and sometimes paid the landlord with works of art. Unfortunately, these originals are not open to the public.
The trail of history
Collioure, or actually the fortification of Collioure, was mentioned in 673 as Castrum Caucoliberi. This year the place fell to the Visigoths through conquest.
The original castle was built in 981 on the remains of an old Roman castrum. When Collioure belonged to the Kingdom of Mallorca, the rulers converted this castle into their domicile from 1242 to 1280. The place remained the most important trading port of the Roussillon in the Mallorcan empire. The famous Perpignan cloth, bed linen, oil and wine were exported, while spices, oriental fabrics and other exotic products were imported.
The area has always been the focus of territorial disputes between the Kingdom of Spain and France. Therefore, the famous fortress builder Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban was commissioned to fortify the city near the border. The strategic importance contributed to the fact that Vauban had part of the old town demolished in order to expand the castle and to build extensive star-shaped fortifications. Some of these structures are still visible today – such as Fort Miradou or the impressive Château Royal de Collioure.
The population threatened to move to Port-Vendres decided to rebuild the city in its current location, the Vieux Quartier du Mouré.
At the beginning of the 19th century, fishing continued to expand. This and the cultivation of excellent wine in this area gave the place an economic boom.
When painters discovered the small fishing village at the beginning of the 20th century, including artists such as Juan Gris, Albert Marquet and Pablo Picasso, it also experienced an increase in tourism. The village gained international fame through the paintings.
From March to December 1939, refugees from the Spanish Civil War who were considered to be particularly dangerous were interned at the Château Royal. The so-called „Camp Special“ was notorious for the inhumane treatment of up to 1000 interned Spaniards, some of whom did not survive the camp. In December 1939, the prisoners were transferred to the Camp de Vernet internment camp.
In addition to the impressive fortress in the heart of Collioure, there are several other sights.
Reproductions and viewing points of the paintings created there are displayed in 19 places. With the Chemin du Fauvisme, visitors have the opportunity to see the place from the artist’s perspective.
Instead of the destroyed church in the upper town, Vauban built the fortified church of Notre-Dames-des-Angnes. The strange looking church tower does not accidentally remind you of a lighthouse. In fact, the bell tower of the church was previously used as such.
The Château Royal was also built by Vauban. The royal castle, which separates the Port d’Amont from the Port d’Avall, contains underground passages, battlements and the parade ground, which can be visited as well as the 16th century prison, the 13th century chapel and the Queen’s bedroom.
The place is embedded in a beautiful coastal landscape. The road that runs along this coast leads along the sea to Cerbère on the Spanish border. Curve by curve you can discover not only rocky coves and beaches, but also grapevines that are the basis for the dry wines of Collioure and the gentle Banyuls wines.
Not far is Fort Saint-Elme, once part of the defense, today it is a wonderful vantage point to see the breathtaking landscape in a 360 ° panoramic view. The fort also houses a museum and a weapons collection.
Some hiking routes start from the neighboring town of Port Vendres. Among other, a hiking route over the Cap Béar to the Spanish border.
How to get there?
Due to the location, we strongly recommend driving along the beautiful coastal road. No matter which direction you come from, there are always moments worthy of being photographed that are at least as beautiful as Collioure itself.
The best way to park your own vehicle after arrival is at Collioure train station. From there it is only a few meters to the old town and the exploration tour can begin.
The place is lively even in the off-season without being overcrowded. In the high season, however, it can be that the number of visitors can be quite large. Due to the small size, all sights can be reached quickly and easily on foot.
If you are nearby, you should definitely take the time to visit Collioure – if you have more time, you should also explore the coastal hiking trails. In addition to beautiful views, you also have the opportunity to look for cooling in the Mediterranean on small hidden beaches.