AGATHA THE GREEK
This dark basalt town has a long history, set facing the deep blue Mediterranean sea. It was firstly inhabited by the Ligurians, and the Phoenicians made it into a port in the 5th century B.C, followed by the Greeks who called it “Agatha”, the Good. Commercial activity soon flourished, thanks to the abundant wine and oil production of the inland area. Agde was therefore a rich port, in which trading and economic exchanges were intense.
Christianity also arrived early: Agde in fact became a Bishop’s see as early as the 5th century A.C. Few remains of this glorious past are still in evidence today, destroyed by the invasions of Barbarians and Saracens. But the commercial heritage of Agde still continued unabated, and the port remained an important trading centre until the 12th century, when it was gradually replaced by nearby ports of Aigues-Mortes and then Sète. Its end was definitively marked by its sanding up, which ended up by separating it from the sea, to which it originally owed its fortunes.
A CATHEDRAL READY FOR ALL SIEGES
The ancient Cathedral of St. Etienne, is undoubtedly the most important monument of Agde: it was built in the 12th century, probably on the site of a previous Carolingian church, which in turn had been built on the site of an ancient temple dedicated to Diana. Its appearance is that of a typical fortress-church of the Languedoc, further reinforced by the dark colour of the material used in its construction: a lava stone of almost black colour, originating from the ancient volcano of Mont Saint-Loup, situated a few kilometres from the town.
Its walls are also those of a fortress: 2.3 metres thick with crenellated tops, also featuring a towering bell-tower, with a squared base, and a height of 35 metres. The church has a single nave, with a rounded barrel vault, and a rectangular apse, wider than the nave itself. The vault also contains a small round window used to defend the church during sieges through which food and munitions were supplied.
While the interior features a multi-coloured marble altar dating back to the 17th century and a splendid pulpit, also in marble dating back to the 18th century.
BLACK LAVA AND BLUE SEA
The town features a host of contrasts, a sea town, abandoned by the sea, which had previously given it years of glory. Contrasts also in terms of colour: the nearby towns of Sète or Béziers, being of warm golden shades, while Agde is of black colour. The Black Pearl of the Mediterranean, almost as if in mourning for its glorious past, destroyed by adverse fortunes. The town emblem is that of a Ephbe, a magnificent Hellenistic bronze, the history of which symbolically reflects that of Agde: buried by river mud, it was brought to light in 1964. Some believe it to be the portrait of Alexander the Great. What is certain is that Agde has created an apt home for this treasure of its past: The museum of the Ephbe, where this beautiful young man still dominates, scrutinizing the centuries with his far-away gaze.