1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gers

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GERS, a department of south-western France, composed of the whole or parts of certain districts of Gascony, viz. Armagnac, Astarac, Fezensac, Pardiac, Pays de Gaure, Lomagne, Comminges, Condomois and of a small portion of Agenais. It is bounded N. by the department of Lot-et-Garonne, N.E. by Tarn-et-Garonne, E. and S.E. by Haute-Garonne, S. by Hautes-Pyrénées, S.W. by Basses-Pyrénées and W. by Landes. Pop. (1906) 231,088. Area, 2428 sq. m. The department consists of a plateau sloping from south to north and traversed by numerous rivers, most of them having their source close together in the Plateau de Lannemezan (Hautes-Pyrénées), from which point they diverge in the shape of a fan to the north-west, north and north-east. In the south several summits exceed 1100 ft. in height. Thence the descent towards the north is gradual till on the northern limit of the department the lowest point (less than 200 ft.) is reached. The greater part of the department belongs to the basin of the Garonne, while a small portion in the west is drained by the Adour. The chief affluents of the former are the Save, Gimone, Arrats, Gers and Baïse, which derive their waters in great part from the Canal de la Neste in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées; and of the latter, the Arros, Midou and Douze, the last two uniting and taking the name of Midouze before joining the Adour. The climate is temperate; its drawbacks are the unwholesome south-east wind and the destructive hail-storms which sometimes occur in spring. There is seldom any snow or frost. Over the greater portion of the department the annual rainfall varies between 28 and 32 in. Gers is primarily agricultural. The south-western district is the most productive, but the valleys generally are fertile and the grain produced is more than sufficient for local consumption. Wheat, maize and oats are the principal cereals. About one-third of the wine produced is used for home consumption, and the remainder is chiefly manufactured into brandy, known by the name of Armagnac, second only to Cognac in reputation. The natural pastures are supplemented chiefly by crops of sainfoin and clover; horses, cattle, sheep and swine are reared in considerable numbers; turkeys, geese and other poultry are abundant. There are mineral springs at Aurenson, Barbotan and several other places in the department. The mineral production and manufactures are unimportant. Building stone and clay are obtained. Flour-mills, saw-mills, tanneries, brickworks and cask-works are the chief industrial establishments.

Gers is divided into the arrondissements of Auch, Lectoure, Mirande, Condom and Lombez, with 29 cantons and 466 communes. The chief town is Auch, the seat of an archbishopric. The department falls within the circumscription of the appeal-court of Agen, and the region of the XVII. army corps. It forms part of the académie (educational circumscription) of Toulouse. Auch, Condom, Lectoure and Mirande are the principal towns. The following are also of interest: Lombez, with its church of Sainte-Marie, once a cathedral, dating from the 14th century, when the bishopric was created; Flaran, with an abbey-church of the last half of the 12th century; La Romieu, with a church of the same period and a beautiful cloister; Simorre, with a fortified abbey-church of the 14th century; and Fleurance, with a handsome church, also of the 14th century, containing stained glass of the 16th century.