Archbishops’ Palace Museums of Narbonne

Archbishops’ Palace, Le palais des Archevêques, Narbonne, France

Oops, I did it again.  I’ve written about a museum which is undergoing major changes and no longer exists as I saw it.

The Old Archbishops’ Palace, Narbonne, France.  The Donjon is the tower on the left, and you enter the museums via the little door in the centre.  If you go through the archway on the right, you get to the Cathedral.

This is, however, a good thing, because while the museums had wonderful objects on show, the city will be opening a brand new museum dedicated to the Romans of Narbonne in 2020.  This is great news, because Narbonne was an incredibly important area in that period and the city deserves to have a museum that will hopefully rank alongside the fantastic Musee de la Romanite in Nimes.

The Palace of the Archbishops soars magnificently next to the city’s Cathedral.  It is a structure which has been rebuilt, enlarged and reworked for over eight centuries and has a harmoniously higgledy-piggledy appearance that harks back to everything from the Romanesque to neo-Gothic.  While the Narbonne City Council still use part of the building, the rest is used as a museum complex.

The Old Palace

Is now closed pending major reorganisation.  When I visited, it housed an excellent Roman collection but with the opening of a new museum, there will be a change – the building will exclusively house prehistoric and medieval archaeology.  This is definitely a good thing, as while the upstairs galleries were lovely, the ground floor was shabby, with flaking paint and uninspired curating.  It will benefit from a revamp.

The New Palace

The Palais Neuf, which has its origins in the 14th century, now contains a series of grand rooms and houses a mix of paintings, china, furniture and other bits and bobs from the Middle Ages onwards.  It also has a collection of Orientalist art.   The building is grand – the museum itself is a little lacking, but I think that will change soon as well.

The Donjon of Gilles Aycelin

Access to the Donjon/Tower is via the little ticket office/gift shop that you enter on the left of the building.  At the back are some stairs and you climb them, and climb them, and climb them, and just as you’re giving yourself up for dead, you get to see some beautiful views of Narbonne and the Cathedral.

Exhibition

When I visited the Palaces, there was also a little exhibition which acted as something of a preview of the objects that have been hidden away in storage and may get to be on show with the upcoming changes in the museums.

Further Information

All the spaces above were accessed by a joint ticket.  I’m not sure that it’s worth explaining, because clearly that’s all changed now anyway.  If you visit between now and the opening of the new museum, you’re clearly going to encounter some makeshift ticketing system.

Hopefully when it all is re-vamped, the website for the city’s museums will also be improved, because as it is, it’s really quite poor… and only in French: www.webmuseo.com

How To Get There

The walk from the train station to the centre of town is pretty straightforward, but if you want information about buses, this is the official site with Google-translate English, or just pretty basic French: www.citibus.fr

To get to Narbonne by train from Spain or elsewhere on France’s south coast, check out the excellent national site in English: www.sncf.com

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