•Pyrénées-Orientales (66400) • Population: 7,583 • Altitude: 154 m
Céret is a Medieval village south of Perpignan, famous for its art and its artists, its 14th-century stone bridge and a great weekly market.
The village has an old town of narrow streets, many good terrace cafés and restaurants, and a couple of the Medieval defensive entry doorways.
Céret is an ancient village on the route between Spain and France (or even Spain and Italy) used by various peoples over the Millennia. The village was fortified through the Middle Ages, and its two principal gateways still remain.
The northern gateway is the Port de France, set into a wall of houses and flanked by a pair of round towers.
The southern gateway is the Porte d'Espagne (the Spanish Gateway), sharing space today with the Place Picasso.
Many of the shops and terrace cafés are along the Ave Michel Aribaud that curves around the north side of the old village. Both the Museum of Modern Art and the Office de Tourisme can be found here.
Back into the old town there are long, narrow streets to explore, and other squares to discover. There are a few interesting fountains in the village. The most famous is the 14th-century Fountain of the Nine Jets, located on the large square of the same name, on the Rue Manolo. An opposite extreme is the modern monolith fountain on Rue Joseph Parayre. One of the most interesting fountains, for us, was built of stone in a design that seems quite unique, at a back corner of the Eglise Saint-Pierre.
Pont du Diable
The Devil's Bridge (Pont du Diable) is the arched stone bridge crossing the Tech river at the north edge of Céret. It was built in 1321-1324 and at the time was the world's largest arch bridge, with its 45 m span.
Legend has it that the villagers, wanting a bridge across the river so badly, finally called on the Devil for assistance. Their pleas were answered, but with the condition that the first soul to cross the bridge would be taken by the Devil. The bridge was built, but nobody wanted to cross, so a cat was sent over the bridge. Not everybody then agreed that this was a valid strategy against the Devil, and for many years nobody would cross the bridge unless obligated. (It's a good story, but a common one for the many Ponts du Diable in France.)
Artistic Navigation in Céret
Céret is an artistic village with a history of artists. We're thinking that the maps posted around village (the "you are here" maps) were created by artists and not map makers. Most of the maps show the village laid out with north near the bottom! And since the direction of north is not indicated, they are very confusing. The "you are here" map at the parking area of the Place de la Republique has north oriented to the left, again without any indication of north.
What were they thinking?
Our map of Céret uses a photo of one of these posted maps, with the "North" symbol at the bottom added by us. (Céret Village Map)
Artists of Céret
Céret was the cradle of cubism at the beginning of the 20th century. Among the first artists here in 1909 were the sculptor Manolo Hugué and the painter Franck Burty Haviland, with the the composer Déodat de Séverac arriving the following year. Pablo Picasso joined them in 1911. Georges Braque, Max Jacob, Kisling, Juan, Gris and Herbin arrived during the following years.
The second "School of Céret" started with Pierre Brune in 1916, who bought the fortress ruins of Castellas. He was later joined by Pinchus Kremegne, Chaim Soutine, André Masson, Maurice Loutreil, Auguste Herin, Juan Gris, Lhote, Chagall, Dufy and Cocteau.
The painter André Eulry lived in Céret from 1955 to 1980. Pinchus Kremegne, who had stayed in Céret around 1916-1918, returned to Céret around 1955-1966, where he built his house and atelier near the old Capucins Convent.
The Grand Café was the meeting place for many of these artists in Céret, and there's another café, the Café Pablo dedicated to Pablo.
Cherries of Céret
The farming area and fruit orchards along the Tech river by Céret are famous for the local cherries. The Céret cherries are among the first to ripen in France, but their fame is linked to the fact that the first of the season's pickings are sent to the President of France.
This presidential offering began in 1932 as a promotional stunt by the local growers to demonstrate the viability of transporting fresh fruit by air. The very first crate of Céret cherries was flown to Paris on 17 May 1932 and delivered to President of the Republic M. Lebrun, who had been in office only 11 days.
The annual Cherry Festival of Céret is a weekend event of markets, music, dancing, and everything cherry. The cherry products are vast, and include cherry beer, cherry wine, cherry burgers, and even cherry pie. A well known event during this festival is the cherrystone spitting contest.
The weekly Saturday market in Céret is the most popular in the area. It's big, it's dynamic and it's exciting. If you're in the area, definitely schedule a Saturday morning for Céret. The Céret market manages to combine the typical Provencal market with a strong Catalonian flavor. The Provencal colors have a Catalan red and yellow bias, and Flamenco music vies with French accordionists.
Corrida and Sardane
Going into the 21st century, bull fighting is very controversial. However, bulls have been the tradition in the village of Céret since at least 1577, under the rule of Philippe II of Spain. The current arena of Céret was built in 1922.
The annual Céret Corrida takes place during the feria festivities during a weekend close to the 14 July independence day.
The international Sardane festival is a traditional Catalane folk danse that takes place during the weekend of the Céret Corrida. This very colorful festival has been taking place here every year since 1958.
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History of Céret
First record, 866 vico Cereto: during negotiations for the Treaty of the Pyrénées.
Gallo-Roman: Hannibal marched through here in 218 BC. The Romans occupied the area a couple of centuries later. They built a double-arched bridge across the Tech (about 150 meters upstream from the current bridges). That bridge was destroyed by a flood in 522, but some of the support pillars and part of the Roman road still remain.
Medieval: This entire area, including Céret was part of the Carolingian Empire from the 8th and 9th centuries. Céret became part of the kingdoms of Majorque and Aragon through to the middle of the Middle Ages. The town was occupied by Spain during the War of the Pyrénées, 1793-1794. The freshly-built ramparts were then destroyed by Napoleon 1st.