Dessin des fortifications de MendeDessins des remparts en Monochrome Rouge de la ville de Mende (XVII)
©Dessins des remparts en Monochrome Rouge de la ville de Mende (XVII)|Inconnu
Immerse yourself in the past ofThe city of bishops

The birth of the city.

It began, according to tradition, in the third century.
At that time, the inhabitants of the future Gévaudan were the Gabales.
The Alamanic barbarians invaded the country and captured Privat, bishop of the Gabales.
Chrocus, leader of the Alamanics asks him to order the Gabales to surrender.
Privat refused and was martyred near the caves of Mont Mimat.
Having become a renowned saint, the important pilgrimage to his tomb will lead to the development of a city: Mende

In the middle Ages, …

… The geographical location of Mende, at the crossroads between Languedoc and Auvergne, favors the commercial and artisanal activity of the city, wich becomes a prosperous and powerful city.
In the 10th century, at the latest, the Bishopric is situated in Mende.

In 1161, bishop Aldebert III du Tournel paid homage to the King of France Louis VII on behalf of the diocese of Gévaudan.
Delighted with this rallying, the king then granted the bishops the rank of Count of Gévaudan and therefore temporal power over the whole province.
Faced with the opposition of the local barons and to symbolize its new status the bishop had built ramparts whose shape was still that of the boulevard surrounding the historic center.

… Mende therefore becomes an ecclesiastical principality.

A dark period: The religious wars.

Mende will experience difficult times.
Indeed, if the Protestant reform converted part of Gévaudan population, Mende remains faithful to the Catholic faith.
Its motto comes from there: “the darkness did not invade me” as well as “the radiant sun” which adorns its coat of arms.
In 1579, the Huguenot captain Mathieu Merle seized the city, decimated the clergy, and in 1581 destroyed the cathedral and its prestigious bell “François” nicknamed “La non-pareille” (unrivalled).
If the cathedral is rebuilt identically, it will not be the same for the “non-pareille” replace by a much more modest stamp that you can discover during guided tours.

In 1721, the plague, crossed the gates of the city to carry out its fatal destiny there …
This terrible epidemic is one of the causes of the destruction of the ramparts in 1768, “so that the air circulates better”.

Mende becomes the capital of Lozère from the Revolution.

The French revolution did not change the status of Mende which, from the capital of the province of Gévaudan, became the prefecture of the department of Lozère.

The 19th century: a paradox in the history of Mende.

This is the century of progress: Mende is the first departmental capital after Paris, to obtain public electric lighting in 1888.

But the 19th century is also the century during which the city begins its slow descent into oblivion.
The textile industry declined and disappeared completely in the 20th century.
The success of the major fairs in Mende also decrease with the development of the railway and other roads.


The city remains primarily the administrative centre of the department of Lozère
However, this small town often surprises visitors.
Unexpectedly, it has entered the 21st century with its serenity.
It offers all the infrastructures of modern cities while leaving.
the city offers all the infrastructures of modern cities while maintaining the calm of the countryside towns.
Its preserved living environment attracts a slightly larger population each year.
This dynamic is driven by the establishment of training centres, including a university branch, digital companies and environmentally conscious industries.

We invite you to discover why people have chosen to live here for thousands of years.

Visit Mende

Self-guided tour of Mende Cathedral

You are passing through Mende and want to discover the city at your own pace and without guides, you can get the brochure «Circuit du Patrimoine de Mende» from the Tourist Office.
This brochure will take you on a small circuit of 28 stages in the city center and will also show you what to discover in its cathedral. Download the Mende Heritage brochure.

Watch out! Some places are only accessible to the public during guided tours (old pharmacy, town’s wedding hall, bell tower of the cathedral, and other small surprises…).
Find out at the Tourist Office.

Guided tour of Mende Cathedral:

Guided tour in summer:
Nothing like a tour guide to help you discover the heritage of Mende from a cultural and friendly angle.
The Tourist Office organizes guided tours of the historic center throughout the summer.
These visits can be thematic (musical visits, two-voice visits, fifties visits, contradictory visits,…) or classic.

Off-season guided tour:
Groups and individuals can book a guided tour by contacting the Mende Tourist Office.

Check out the rates

Visit for people who has reduced mobility.


The Cathedral has 3 entrances:

The south door, located on Place Chaptal (on the right on the map) is accessible to people in wheelchairs.
The parish is located opposite this entrance in case it is necessary to open the door wide and thus shift the bottom of the door.

However, the West and North doors (respectively place Urbain V at the bottom of the plan and rue de la Rovère at the left of the plan) are not recommended because they have stairs.

The visits to the Cathedral, whether guided or free (with the explanatory brochure of the Tourist Office) are therefore quite accessible to people with reduced mobility.

The Mende Heritage Discovery Brochure with the Visit Plan in PDF can be downloaded here.

You can get this brochure free of charge at the Mende Tourist Office, place du Foirail.