Fréjus, 2000 years of History…
It is difficult to summarize 2,000 years of history in just a few sentences as the city was steadily built over several centuries.
Our Tourist Office tour guide reveals all the greatest moments in the history of the city.
LIKELY WORDS FROM THE GREAT MEN WHO SHAPED THE HISTORY OF FRÉJUS:
As a tour guide for the City of Fréjus and a member of the “Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire” (Cities and Countries of Art and History) network since 1987, how can I summarize the rich history of Fréjus in just a few words?
Why not ask a few great men, witnesses of this history, to tell us the story!
For example, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, a Roman general born in Forum Iulii (Frégus) in 40 AD, might say:
“I am part of the Gens Julia, the famous Roman clan of Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus, who created the city. Julius Caesar most likely imagined the “Market of Julius” (Fréjus) around 49 BC while Augustus expanded it after having reduced the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra, taken at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.
This is what my son-in-law, the historian Tacitus, will write in his work entitled “De vita Agricolae” that he dedicated to me in 98 AD.”
More precisely, Emperor Augustus might add:
“I became the first Roman emperor, under the name Augustus in 27 BC after defeating Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, at Actium. I made Forum Julii my naval base and the largest military port of the “Mare Nostrum” with its 17 hectares. Here, I established a colony for the veterans of the eighth legion, created by my adoptive father, Julius Caesar. The city is gradually enriched with a set of monuments including an Amphitheatre, an Aqueduct, Ramparts and Monumental gates.”
Shortly before the fall of the Western Empire, Saint Leontius (Saint Léonce in French) became the Bishop of Fréjus in 433. He says:
“As early as 374, during the Council of Valencia, a bishop was appointed for Fréjus, but never came. So it was I who became the city’s first Bishop. I was able to build the first cathedral here with its Baptistery. After defeating the Saracens in 990, Bishop Riculphe took over the restoration of the diocese with the help of Count William II of Provence.”
Then came the future Pope John XXII, Jacques Duèze.
“I was Bishop of Fréjus from 1300 to 1310. I fortified the Bishops’ Palace of Fréjus before fortifying the one in Avignon where I became Pope under the name John XXII in 1316.”
Then the Bishop of Fleury, nicknamed “Monsieur de Fréjus”.
“I was Bishop of Fréjus from 1699 to 1715, then Prime Minister of Louis XV starting in 1726. It was another king, King Henry II, who set up an Admiralty in Fréjus in 1585.”
And here is the story of a famous son of Fréjus:
“My name is Emanuel-Joseph Siéyès, born in Fréjus on 3 May 1748. It is my political pamphlet entitled “Qu’est-ce que le Tiers état?” (What Is the Third Estate?) written in January 1789 that will make me famous and my city the birthplace of revolutionary thought, especially after the landing of General Bonaparte in the Gulf of Fréjus on 9 October 1799 on his return from Egypt.”
According to Napoléon Bonaparte:
“I actually went to Fréjus twice. After a quick visit in 1799, I came back, but this time to embark towards the Island of Elba where I was exiled. I have a very fond memory of the Auberge Pascal where I spent the night of 27 to 28 April 1814. I stayed here after Pope Pius VII, who spent the night of 8 to 9 February 1814 after I released him. He had already spent the night of 6 to 7 August 1809 in this city, but this time guarded by my troops at the Four Seasons Hotel.”
Victor Hugo wrote one of the most beautiful and wistful sayings about Fréjus.
“He leaves every place with remarkable memories, intoxicated by a dream that makes one randomly wander for a long time…
Chance brought me to the Hôtel Pascale during my stay in Fréjus on 10 October 1839, where I was able to describe the room in which the Emperor slept in my travel diary.”
Of all the Ministers who lived in Fréjus, the most famous is Marshall Galliéni:
“I decided to set up the South East Camps in Fréjus and throughout the region in 1915. It was a transition and retreat centre for the “troupes colonials” (colonial troops). It was intended to host native soldiers who came to fight in France, in my adopted city where I lived at the Château de la Gabelle. This garrison town had already been home to the Naval Air Base since 1912 where Roland Garros took off on 23 September 1913 to join Tunisia, thereby, making him the first person to cross the Mediterranean Sea by air.”
Or Jean Cocteau, who came to create his last masterpiece, the Chapel of Notre Dame de Jérusalem, in Fréjus in 1963 and was often seen in the arenas with this friend, Pablo Picasso.
Our region’s past is full of many important events, laying the groundwork for our modern day history.
After reviving our farming industry, replacing wheat and feed by vines and specialty crops, the tourist industry starts to develop and makes the city of Fréjus one of the most important tourist resorts in the French Riviera.
The collapse of Malpasset Dam during the night of 2 December 1959 did not slow down the city’s economic and cultural development, with the creation of Port Fréjus in 1989 and 2013 and Le Forum Theatre in 2010 by Jean-Michel Wilmotte.
Philippe Cantarel, Tourism Office’s tour guide