In Roman times Saint-Gaudens was known as Mas Saint-Pierre. It was the capital of the Nébouzan in the 13th Century, later becoming the economic capital of the County of Comminges.
Follow the ‘Ochre Trail’ to discover the Collegiate Church and its 11th and 12th Century Cloister. Stroll through the streets and squares at the heart of the renovated old city.
Visit nearby sites that bear witness to a past rich in history, such as Saint-Bertrand de Comminges, Saint Just de Valcabrère, Gargas, the Gallo-Roman villa of Montmaurin, Bonnefont Abbey or the Bishops’ Palace at Alan.
Saint-Gaudens is an administrative centre (sous-préfecture) for the south of the Haute-Garonne département, at an altitude of 405m on a ledge overlooking the Valley of the Garonne. It faces the Pyrenees and is a natural crossroads for routes between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and between Toulouse and the Val d'Aran in Spain.
It has been inhabited since ancient times (traces of the Iron Age and of Roman occupation) and was originally called Mas-Saint-Pierre, before taking the name of the young shepherd, Gaudens, martyred by the Visigoths at the end of the 5th Century for refusing to renounce his faith: a dramatic tale!
The town later developed around the 11th Century Romanesque church. It was granted its city charter in 1202 and became the capital of the Nébouzan area, protected by solid ramparts. As an important regional marketplace, Saint-Gaudens became the economic capital of the Comminges.
The town was damaged by Protestant forces under Montgomery in 1569, and became the seat of the Nébouzan Assembly after coming under the control of the French crown in 1607. The name was changed briefly to "Mont-Unité" during the Revolution and the area later became part of the Haute-Garonne départment.
Saint-Gaudens is proud of the heritage of its rich past and has become a dynamic and attractive economic and cultural centre.
The Comminges has been inhabited since earliest times: see the prehistoric shelter at Aurignac, the statue of the ‘Venus of Lespugue’, the painted caves of Gargas etc.
Its first moment of glory was as the Gallo-Roman city of the Convenae people whose capital was Lugdunum Convenarum - now Saint-Bertrand de Comminges.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the region was ruled first by the Visigoths, then by the Franks.
The bishopric of Comminges remained as the only administrative structure, until the rise of the Counts of Comminges in the feudal era. Their reign culminated in the 12th Century, extending from the Val d'Aran to Muret, from l'Isle-en-Dodon to Saint-Lizier, boasting bishoprics, wealthy abbeys, châteaux, manors and the first independent townships. They stood their ground against powerful neighbours like the Count of Toulouse and the King of Aragon.
The County began to decline when the Crown started to found fortified towns (bastides) such as Montréjeau or Valentine.
In 1258, the Béarn-Foix family (which included the renowned Gaston Phoebus) conquered the Nébouzan, removed Saint-Gaudens and other towns from the sway of the Comminges and broke its essential unity. The County became part of the Kingdom of France at the end of the 15th Century; the Nébouzan remained separate a little longer.
The Comminges ceased to be an administrative region after 1790.
Today, the population of this ancient County remains deeply attached to its history and heritage. Though no longer a County, the Comminges still represents the cultural and human identity of this delightful part of the central Pyrenees.
The Tourist Office recommends two discovery trails. Discover promenades and visits.