Aix (prounounced "eks"), or, to distinguish it from other cities built over hot springs, Aix-en-Provence is a city in southern France, some 30 km north of Marseille. It is located in the Provence region, in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, of which it is a sous-préfecture. Population is approximately 130,000.
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Aix (Aquae Sextiae) was founded in 123 BC by the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus, who gave his name to its springs. In 102 BC its neighbourhood was the scene of the Battle of Aquae Sextiae when Romans under Gaius Marius defeated the Cimbri and Teutones, with mass suicides among the captured women, which passed into Roman legends of Germanic heroism (cf Jerome, letter cxxiii.8, 409 A.D. ).
In the 4th century BC it became the metropolis of Narbonensis Secunda. It was occupied by the Visigoths in 477. In the succeeding century was repeatedly plundered by the Franks and Lombards, and was occupied by the Saracens in 731. Aix, which during the middle ages was the capital of the county of Provence, did not reach its zenith until after the 12th century, when, under the houses of Aragon and Anjou, it became an artistic centre and seat of learning.
With the rest of Provence, it passed to the crown of France in 1487, and in 1501 Louis XII established there the parliament of Provence which existed until 1789. In the 17th and 18th centuries the town was the seat of the intendance of Provence.
Aix-en-Provence is situated in a plain overlooking the Arc, about a mile from the right bank of the river. The city slopes from North to South and the Montagne Sainte Victoire can easily be seen to the North East.
The Cours Mirabeau, a wide thoroughfare, planted with double rows of plane-trees, bordered by fine houses and decorated by fountains, divides the town into two portions. The new town extends to the south and west, the old town with its wide but irregular streets and its old mansions dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries lies to the north.
Aix is an important educational centre, being the seat of the faculties of law and letters of the university of Aix-Marseille, and there is a lot of students lodging and parties in the old town and around university buildings in the new part of downtown.
The cathedral of Saint-Sauveur, which dates from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, is situated in this portion of Aix. It is preceded by a rich portal in the Gothic style with elaborately carved doors, and is flanked on the north by an uncompleted tower. The interior contains tapestry of the 16th century, other works of art and a baptism pool from first century. The archbishop's palace and a Romanesque cloister adjoin the cathedral on its south side. The church of Saint-Jean-de-Malto, dating from the 13th century, contains some valuable pictures.
The Hotel de Ville, a building in the classical style of the middle of the 17th century, looks on to a picturesque square. It contains some fine woodwork and a large library which includes many valuable manuscripts. At its side rises a handsome clock-tower erected in 1505.
Aix possesses many beautiful fountains, one of which in the Cours Mirabeau is surmounted by a statue of le bon Roi René, count of Provence, who held a brilliant court at Aix in the 15th century. Aix has thermal springs, remarkable for their heat and containing lime and carbonic acid. The bathing establishment was built in 1705 near the site of the ancient baths of Sextius, of which vestiges still remain.
The town, which is the seat of an archbishop and court of appeal, and the centre of an académie (educational circumscription), numbers among its public institutions a Court of assizes, tribunals of first instance and of commerce, and a chamber of arts and manufactures. It also has training-colleges, a lycée, a school of art and technics, museums of antiquities, natural history and painting, and several learned societies.
Aix is often referred to as the city of a thousand fountains. Among them are the Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (Fountain of the Four Dolphins), built in 1667 by Jean-Claude Rambot; King René's Fountain, built in the 19th century, of Roi René holding a bunch of Muscat grapes, which he introduced into Provence; the hot-water fountain dating back to 1734, which is covered in moss due to the 35°C (93°F) water; and the great fountain, from 1860, at La Rotonde, the large roundabout at the center of town.
The industries formerly include flour-milling, the manufacture of confectionery, iron-ware and hats, manufacture of matches and the distillation of olive-oil.
But now they more include :
- Electronic Industry
- Development services (computer science)
- Provence Crafts
- still, distillation of olive-oil
- manufacture of the famous "calissons", sweets made of almond pasta flavoured with "confit" melon and orange.
- wine-making. The local Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée is Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence AOC.
Aix-en-Provence was the birthplace of:
- Eleanor of Provence (died 1291), queen consort of King Henry III of England
- Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), painter, who lived and painted there
- Maurice Rouvier (1842–1911), politician
- Tourist office website
- Cyberflag : Flag of Aix-en-Provence
- Official site of the town Aix-en-Provence