The town of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges was founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. Lugdunum Convenarum (“Lyon des Convènes”) was a prosperous settlement of several thousand inhabitants linked to Toulouse, Dax, Agen and Sapin by paved roads. It had the amenities of a Roman town of importance with a population of up to 10,000 in the 2nd century A.D. including a theatre, a temple in the Forum, baths and a vast market. The Lower Town was built on the site of the Roman town whose ruins illustrate the importance of this ancient settlement.
Several centuries later, the Bishops of Comminges made the town famous by building an impressive cathedral which looked like a castle. Things have not changed since the Middle Ages and it is still impossible to miss the Cathedral of Sainte-Marie on the top of the hill where the medieval village was built. The Romano-Gothic architecture of the religious building, its belltower-keep, Renaissance stained glass windows, sculpted choir stalls, 16th century organ casing, Romanesque cloister with sculpted capitals and gallery of tombs take visitors way back in history. In the adjoining streets, perfectly-preserved 15th and 16th century half-timbered houses also bear witness to the greatness of the cathedral city.
Lower down in the valley, the 12th century Basilica of Saint-Just-de-Valcabrère is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in the Pyrenees. It was constructed using many stones from buildings from the ancient Roman town.
Les Olivétains is a tourist and cultural centre run by the Comité Départemental du Tourisme de la Haute-Garonne, in the former 19th century Olivetan convent in front of the cathedral at Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges. It contains a tourist information point and a specialist bookshop, tells you everything you need to know about the history of the town, runs guided tours of ancient and medieval sites and holds exhibitions in summer. The historic centre of the village also has an archaeology museum, open in summer, with an exhibition of objects found during excavations of the site.