The prefecture of Lozère and former capital of Gévaudan, Mende enjoys an ideal geographical location in the upper Lot Valley, at the edge of the Cévennes National Park. Surrounded by mountains, this charming small town, both peaceful and welcoming, invites you to discover its wonderful sights on a pleasant walk. The paved side streets lined with old houses; small squares decorated with fountains; the picturesque medieval Notre-Dame bridge and the surrounding area, dotted with beautiful houses with roofs like an upturned boat hull; the Penitents' Tower, a relic of the old ramparts; the 18th-century town hall with a tilestone roof, and the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady and St. Privatus are all among the treasures you can admire in Mende.
Dominated by the silhouette of its two differently-sized bell towers, the imposing Mende Cathedral was built from the 14th century onwards at the request of Urbanus V, a pope from Gévaudan, whose bronze statue has stood on the forecourt since 1874. Once inside the building, discover the crypt of St. Privatus, the black Virgin dating from the 12th century, brought back from the East by the crusaders, the carved wooden stalls, the Aubusson tapestries from the early 18th century illustrating scenes from the Virgin's life, the 17th-century organs by the Eustache brothers, and more.
In August, the streets of the town are especially lively, during the traditional Great Festival of Mende, a colourful event with a great atmosphere, featuring street performers, concerts, fairground attractions, a procession of floral floats and fireworks.
For tea, enjoy croquant de Mende, a delicious little finger biscuit with almonds and hazelnuts, made by the town's bakers and pastry chefs!
City of Lozère, Occitania region, Mende is a very old city that takes place between Montpellier and Clermont-Ferrand. It is the most important municipality in the department despite its small population and is located not far from Aurillac or Ales. Its geographical location has earned it a UNESCO World Heritage status as the gateway to the site of the Causses and Cévennes.
People from 200 BC, Mende was named at the time Mimata. It was necessary, however, to wait until the Middle Ages to see the birth of a city properly speaking on this territory. Surrounded by ramparts as early as the 12th century, it developed an important drapery activity at the end of the Hundred Years War, imposing its status as a commercial crossroads. At the forefront of modernity, Mende was also one of the first cities in France, at the end of the 19th century, to install electric lighting. Today, it is turning its economy towards sustainable development and the wood industry for a better respect for the environment.
Tourist, the city of Mende has a significant number of monuments to discover during a stay in this city with a rich and ancient past.
Classified as a city of art, Mende also benefits from the label City of Art and History that confers to it its heritage of first order.
Classified as Historic Monuments, Saint-Privat Cathedral was built in the second half of the 14th century under the impulse of Pope Urban V. Its bell towers, which date back to the 16th century, sheltered for a time the largest bell Melted in the world, the Not Similar. The original towers were destroyed during the passage of the Huguenots in the city. Inside, you can admire a dozen chapels, as well as the crypt that houses the body of saint Privat, patron saint of the building. The only Gothic building in the whole department, the cathedral basilica also has a 12th century black Madonna, as well as some Aubusson tapestries from the 18th century. In the 19th century, a neo-Gothic portal was added to the ensemble. Located in the historical center of Mende, it is the most tourist site of the city.
Rare vestige of the ancient ramparts of the twelfth century, the tower of Penitents used to serve as guard. It survived the destruction of the ramparts in the eighteenth century thanks to the chapel annexed to it.
Symbol of the city, the bridge Notre-Dame dates from the thirteenth century. Seven meters high, it takes its name from an old statue of the Virgin installed on its beak and now disappeared.
Registered with the Monuments Historiques, the castle of Bahours is in reality a strong house of the XVIIth century which reveals a very beautiful original kitchen. The old consular house is not lacking interest either. Opposite you can admire an interesting trompe-l'œil wall.
One can still admire the vestiges of the hermitage of saint Privat, installed in caves on Mount Mimat. Nowadays equipped for the pilgrims of the whole world, it houses a chapel, as well as a cave giving access to the original site.
The Ignon-Fabre museum takes place in the private house Buisson de Ressouches. It offers three-storey collections of Gallo-Roman objects from archaeological excavations in the surrounding area.
The public fountains are numerous in the city of Mende, proposing a water coming straight from the causses. Two of them were registered in the Monuments Historiques, that of Aigues-Passes, and that of the Griffon de Soubeyran.
The market is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays morning.
In July, the 48th Street Festival offers various street arts shows in the city.
The Western Country Festival makes it possible to discover in the month of July the country culture through different manifestations like the dance or the rodeo.
The big holidays of Mende take place every year in August. You can discover a flower corso or even attend the election of Miss Mende.
Every other year, in September, the city hosts the Beer Festival in partnership with its German twin, Wunsiedel.
The M'Lire festival, in November, offers several animations around literature and cinema.
A Christmas market takes place in December.