Mende’s identity is interwoven with the territory’s history. At the foot of Mont Mimat, a minor limestone plateau emanating from the Causse de Sauveterre on the banks of the River Lot between Auvergne and Languedoc, it soon became a trading centre with fairs and markets. Cattle, sheep, horses and mules were traded locally and internationally. Dependent on agropastoralism, until the 19th century the town sold wool cloth, which the women of Mende span and wove during the long, harsh winters using wool from the surrounding Causses.

Mende, a Gateway Town of the Causses and Cévennes, makes use of the territory’s typical building materials: the narrow medieval streets are lined with simple houses made of limestone, tuff and timber frames, with beautiful roofs made of shale stones from Le Tournel.

The monumental cathedral is an imposing edifice, a reminder of the powerful Bishops of Mende who became the lords of this area in the 12th century. Its presence bears witness to the town’s role in the eventful and often tragic history of the Causses and Cévennes.

Today, with its 13,212 inhabitants, Mende is the administrative centre of Lozère, which has the highest average altitude (1,000 m) and lowest population density (14 inhabitants per km2) of any department of France.

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