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In the beginning...
Canet, in the beginning
Agrandir l'imageCanet, in the beginning

It was around three thousand years ago that, a Celtic tribe made our region its home: its custom was to burn its dead and place their ashes in funeral urns before burying them in the  ground. Later on in history, around 100 BC, a Roman farm was built on the   “Puig del Baja”,  the last promontory before the beach. At the same time,  the shores of Canet started to become a major trading centre, from where goods from the Roussillon would be sent to Rome or to the Empire: amphora filled with oil or wine, wheat flour, salt from our salt pits, iron from the Canigou. Later on after the major invasions of the 5th century, it was the turn of Visigoth fishermen and farmers to settle at the foot of the hill.


The first château at Canet was built before the year 1000AD, inland on some natural heights, artificially raised seeing as the areas near to the beaches had become dangerous due to attacks from barbary pirates. So at this time Canet was surrounded by solid walls over 6 metres in height, flanked by 14 towers. A rich yet often misunderstood past from which the traces can still be seen today.


Little by little, the village expanded under the protection of its castle’s stately defences whilst at the same time Perpignan was taking over from the ancient city of Ruscino (château – Roussillon) as the capital for the counts of Roussillon.
So right through the Middle Ages, as Perpignan grew so Canet became ever more prosperous, with its beach being a natural  “port”. Wine growing, cereal, sheep farming, fishing, and salt production brought prosperity to its people, who during the 13th century were thus able to purchase major franchises from their masters.


The collapse of the kingdom of Majorca (1272-1344) marked the decline of the Roussillon and of Canet. The Franco-Spanish war which finished in 1659 brought total ruin. The trading activity on the shores gradually came to an end and salt production was abandoned, leaving behind an area of pestilential swamplands. By the end of the 8th century, the population had fallen to below 200 inhabitants.


However, Canet was to experience a revival during the following century when the swamplands were dried out and more vineyards were planted. At the same time, the fashion for sea-bathing would attract the crowds from Perpignan to our beaches, at the start of each summer. The advent of paid annual leave and the massive growth in tourism after the war turned Canet into a renowned seaside resort, to the detriment of its traditional activities such as agriculture and fishing.


With the earth and the sea having over the centuries been the “two great providers” for Canet, it’s only right now that everything should be done to preserve the balance between these joint sources of wealth: the old and the new alike must be the platform for this new boom.


The association of the Friends of Old Canet has been involved since 1964, in the conservation of the viscount château of Canet, which was a stronghold of the Catalan defensive system. In summer it organises guided tours for visitors to explore the heritage of Canet: the viscount chateau, its chapel, its ice well (a French listed monument) which has been exceptionally well preserved, its ramparts, its towers, and its Saint-Jacques church…


Tél. +33 (0)4 68 86 72 00
Fax +33 (0)4 68 86 72 12

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