View down into Beaucaire and the marina from the bridge leading to Tarascon
|• Mayor (2014–2020)||Julien Sanchez (FN)|
|Area1||86.52 km2 (33.41 sq mi)|
|• Density||180/km2 (460/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||30032 / 30300|
|Elevation||1–156 m (3.3–511.8 ft)
(avg. 18 m or 59 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
History and culture
- Beau < French beau ('Beautiful') < Occitan bèl/bèu ('Beautiful') < Vulgar Latin BELLV ('Beautiful')
- Caire < Occitan caire ('Cut stone or rock') [in French pierre de taille]. Caire also means 'corner, angle' and 'neighbourhood'.
There is a village in the département of Aude called Belcaire. Moreover, the most similar language to Occitan is Catalan, and there are two towns in nearby Catalonia called 'Bellcaire' (where bell means 'Beautiful' and caire means also Cut stone or rock in Catalan): Bellcaire d'Empordà and Bellcaire d'Urgell.
At the end of the Hundred Years War in 1453, Charles VII of France declared that Beaucaire would become the site of the Foire de la Madeleine, a commercial fair that would enable the trade of goods from all of the Mediterranean Basin countries to all of France. By the mid seventeenth century, the Fair was the largest commercial fair in the Mediterranean region, exceeding in six days the total volume of trade done in Marseilles in a year. It remained the dominant Mediterranean trade fair until the arrival of the railroad in the mid nineteenth century and because Napoleon removed its tax-free status. One result of these years of commercial dominance was the construction of a remarkable number of architecturally significant mansions and palaces by rich merchants of many nationalities.
Camargue bulls are annually run through the streets, Iberian-style during the modern version of the Foire de la Madeleine, which is now a six-day festival starting on 21 July. Events include bull events, parties, amusement rides and discos.
From 20–22 June each year, Beaucaire celebrates the myth of the Drac. The townsfolk bring the monster to life the form of a long procession, which snakes through the town led by a swarm of children carrying Chinese-type lanterns.
According to folklore, the Drac monster is invisible to humans and is capable of changing shape at will. He is usually, however, depicted as a large, fearsome, winged sea-serpent. The story goes that in 1250 he abducted a lavender seller and took her beneath the waters to raise his son. When she was released at the end of seven years, the young woman was endowed with a strange power: the ability to recognise the Drac with one of her eyes. One day, she recognised him as he was going about the market in Beaucaire. Upon being identified, the Drac ripped the woman's eye out.
The Drac was then supposed to have gone on to kill over three thousand knights and villagers, being perhaps one of the craftiest of all French dragons. Most of the kills were performed in Beaucaire. Sometimes, however, the dragon would search for other victims elsewhere.
Whole armies were allegedly sent against the Drac, but all failed. The beast is thus assumed either to have died of old age, or to be still living at the bottom of the Rhône.
There are variations on the story. Some say lavender seller got her dragon-sight by accidentally getting 'Dragon cream' in her eye. Others say the Drac gave her a box of human fat to rub into the hatchling's scales so that it would be visible to humans (otherwise she would not be able to care for it). She was supposed to clean the fat off her hands every evening with special water; but, one evening, she forgot to do so, rubbed her eyes with her dirty hands, and acquired her dragon-sight. Some say it was both eyes, or just the one. Still other versions confuse this beast with other monsters of regional folklore, and claim the Drac was slain by some saint or heroine.
The date above conflicts a little with the account we have by an eminent inhabitant of Arles, Gervais de Tibury, who was passing through Beaucaire in 1214. He said he was astonished by what the villagers told him. They claimed that the deaths of a fair number of people in the waters of the Rhône were due to a dragon who lived in the river, and who had previously emerged, a many years before. The legend was perpetuated by Frédéric Mistral in his Poèmes du Rhône, where he tells of a hybrid monster, dwelling in the river and coming out from time to time to feed on human flesh: lavender-sellers, ferrymen or others who strayed to close to the water's edge. The invisible Drac would sometimes use a passage from the waters of the Rhône to a well in the marketplace in order to come out and walk among the townsfolk.
- Beaucaire was the birthplace of François de Rovérié de Cabrières (1830–1921), prelate of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop of Montpellier.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Beaucaire.|
- Town's official website in French
- Local Tourist Office in French, English & Catalan
- Troglodyte abbey in French
- Classical wines and reconstitutions of Roman cellar and wines in French and English
- Description of the area in and around Beaucaire
- Fodor's "Overlooked and Underrated" Beaucaire, France
- New York Times article about "Roman France"