1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hyères

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HYÈRES, a town in the department of the Var in S.E. France, 11 m. by rail E. of Toulon. In 1906 the population of the commune was 17,790, of the town 10,464; the population of the former was more than doubled in the last decade of the 19th century. Hyères is celebrated (as is also its fashionable suburb, Costebelle, nearer the seashore) as a winter health resort. The town proper is situated about. 2½ m. from the seashore, and on the southwestern slope of a steep hill (669 ft., belonging to the Maurettes chain, 961 ft.), which is one of the westernmost spurs of the thickly wooded Montagnes des Maures. It is sheltered from the north-east and east winds, but is exposed to the cold north-west wind or mistral. Towards the south and south-east a fertile plain, once famous for its orange groves, but now mainly covered by vineyards and farms, stretches to the sea, while to the southwest, across a narrow valley, rises a cluster of low hills, on which is the suburb of Costebelle. The older portion of the town is still surrounded, on the north and east, by its ancient, though dilapidated medieval walls, and is a labyrinth of steep and dirty streets. The more modern quarter which has grown up at the southern foot of the hill has handsome broad boulevards and villas, many of them with beautiful gardens, filled with semi-tropical plants. Among the objects of interest in the old town are: the house (Rue Rabaton, 7) where J. B. Massillon (1663-1742), the famous pulpit orator, was born; the parish church of St Louis, built originally in the 13th century by the Cordelier or Franciscan friars, but completely restored in the earlier part of the 19th century; and the site of the old château, on the summit of the hill, now occupied by a villa. The plain between the new town and the sea is occupied by large nurseries, an excellent jardin d'acclimatation, and many market gardens, which supply Paris and London with early fruits and vegetables, especially artichokes, as well as with roses in winter. There are extensive salt beds (salines) both on the peninsula of Giens, S. of the town, and also E. of the town. To the east of the Giens peninsula is the fine natural harbour of Hyères, as well as three thinly populated islands (the Stoechades of the ancients), Porquerolles, Port Cros and Le Levant, which are grouped together under the common name of Îles d'Hyères.

The town of Hyères seems to have been founded in the 10th century, as a place of defence against pirates, and takes its name from the aires (hierbo in the Provençal dialect), or threshing-floors for corn, which then occupied its site. It passed from the possession of the viscounts of Marseilles to Charles of Anjou, count of Provence, and brother of St Louis (the latter landed here in 1254, on his return from Egypt). The château was dismantled by Henri IV., but thanks to its walls, the town resisted in 1707 an attack made by the duke of Savoy.

See Ch. Lenthéric, La Provence Maritime ancienne et moderne (chap. 5) (Paris, 1880).

 ((W. A. B. C.))