Here’s a fun way to discover Béziers differently: let the many trompe-l’oeils guide you through the historic city centre. And be surprised! The colourful optical illusion wall art brings local history alive, illustrating important events and well-known people of the past. I’ve walked past these wall paintings many times, but only by writing this blog post and doing some research, did I come to understand the actual meaning of them, making them much more interesting. So get yourself a map from the Office de Tourisme and start exploring!
I started my trompe-l’oeil exploration at the Allées Paul Riquet. The first trompe-l’oeil I came across was ‘L’Arlésienne d’Alphonse Daudet’ on the corner of the Rue Boëldieu. It shows ‘the woman from Arles’, named Marie Caufoppe, standing on the balcony on the spot where her birth house used to be. The three men in the fresco are (from left to right) Bizet, Daudet and Mistral. Because of L’Arlésienne’s infidelity, the nephew of French writer Frédéric Mistral committed suicide. Inspired by this story, French novelist Alphonse Daudet introduced her into his novel ‘Lettres de mon Moulin’, while French composer Georges Bizet composed a musical piece about the story.
Continuing on my way along the Allées Paul Riquet, I arrived at the Place de la Victoire. I was looking for the trompe-l’oeil on this square, but instead I found a hidden one on the back of the Municipal Theatre. Tip: don’t look down, you should look up to spot the optical illusion, it is right on the corner of Avenue Foch and Clemenceau. This mural painting is a tribute to Jean-Marie Cordier, the hydraulic engineer who brought drinking water to Béziers.
Another big name in Béziers is one of the main heroes of the French resistance Jean Moulin. I found the trompe-l’oeil dedicated to him on a side street off the Place Lavabre. The Béziers born Jean Moulin is portrayed as he looks in the famous picture that his childhood friend Marcel Bernard took of him. Gallery Romanin was his cover for his resistance work as well as a refuge for resistance fighters.
Before I head to the Saint-Nazaire Cathedral, I spotted a few more trompe-l’oeils. But since there are over 10 -and counting- throughout the city centre, I want to leave some for you to discover on your own. So here’s the last fresco I will mention, the one of native Béziers sculptor Jean-Antoine Injalbert and his friend, sculptor Etienne Dalou. You can find these two comrades on the suitably named ‘Friends Square’: La Place des Amis. If you want to see a statue by Injalbert, just turn around to admire ‘Bacchante au Biniou’, which stands on the Place des Amis. Next time I will bring the kids, I think they will love crisscrossing Béziers looking for beautiful trompe-l’oeils!