Perpignan (Catalan Perpinyà) is a commune and the préfecture (administrative capital city) of the Pyrénées-Orientales département in southern France, and was the capital of the former province of Roussillon (French Catalonia). Population (1999): 105,115 (163,000 including the suburbs).
Founded around the year 900, Perpignan was the capital of the counts of Roussillon until 1172 and later was the capital of the Catalan kingdom of Majorca, from 1276 to 1344. King Philip III of France died there in 1285, as he was returning from the unsuccessful crusade against the Aragonese Crown.
The 13th century castle of the kings of Majorca sits on the high citadel, surrounded by ramparts, reinforced for Louis XI and Charles V, which were updated in the 17th century by Louis XIV's military engineer Vauban.
Traditional commerce was in wine and olive oil, corks (the cork oak Quercus suber grows in Perpignan's mild climate) wool and leather, and iron. In May 1907 it was a seat of agitation by southern producers for government enforcement of wine quality following a collapse in prices.
Perpignan is a rugby football stronghold: their rugby union side, USA Perpignan, is a regular competitor in the Heineken Cup, and a rugby league side from Perpignan will play in the Super League from 2006 under the name Union Treiziste Catalane.
Perpignan is the birthplace of:
- Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), who painted the definitive portaits of Louis XIV
- Dominique Arago (1786-1853), the physicist, astronomer and liberal politician, who secured the abolition of slavery in the French colonies in 1853, was born in a nearby village and is memorialized in a square that bears his statue
- Robert Brasillach (1909-1945), pro-Nazi author in the Vichy France
- City council website (in French and Catalan)