Reading time: 3 min
Do you know a lot of camels in Occitanie?
We’re often asked why there’s a camel’s head on the brass buttons studding the old town’s lanes. The question awakens our inner storyteller!
The camel is Lou Camel! It’s Béziers’ animal mascot and we’re very proud of it! We get it out for big events, pamper it, cherish it and it brings us together. OK, there are no camels running around our region’s streets. This one came from a far-flung land and it didn’t come alone. It crossed the Mediterranean with its master Saint Aphrodisius on a mission: to convert the town to Christianity.
A saint from Egypt
The jury’s out on where Saint Aphrodisius was born but the story goes that he was born in 1AD and was the priest of Hermes in Heliopolis.
Where’s Heliopolis? It’s in Egypt!
Now you see why the camel’s involved.
So, why is Aphrodisius called a saint when he worshipped a pagan god?
Back then, a certain family and a certain “character” were becoming famous… Jesus of somewhere or other, ring a bell? Saint Aphrodisius met the family and decided to say goodbye pagans, hello Christians! He had to flee persecution after the Passion of Christ so our friend headed out on the road to spread the word with his trusted white horse, sorry, his camel Lou Camel.
But he left one pagan land for another. Madness!
He ran into the Romans when he reached Béziers and rubbed them up the wrong way. In less time that it takes to say “Soi d’aqui”, our friend was sentenced to beheading… Bad news! But a real miracle happened on Place Saint-Cyr near the Roman Arena.
And the legend was born…
His head was thrown into a well but reappeared! To everyone’s amazement, our headless friend calmly picked up his head, tucked it under his arm and went back to the cave he called home…
As if it wasn’t incredible enough to see someone wandering around like that, some people threw snails in his path to slip him up. But he didn’t even tread on them!
Once their mockery turned to terror, he was left to return to his cave which is where Saint Aphrodise Basilica now stands.
People felt a bit bad about the whole thing so a potter took care of the camel until it died…
Now you know the legend of Saint Aphrodisius and Lou Camel, you can meet them whilst visiting town.
Some places pay tribute to our animal mascot, like Le Chameau Ivre restaurant and Le Chameau Malin bookshop. We always get our lucky camel out for sporting fixtures too.
Glance down as you explore the town and you’ll see Lou Camel guiding you through the old town’s lanes. Get a photo with it at the indoor market or town hall!
Fête de la Saint-Aphrodise
Béziers pays tribute to its patron saint with a festival in his name on April 28th, the anniversary of Saint Aphrodisius’s death. With culture, fun and food, join us for a warm and friendly get-together that kids and adults will love! It all kicks off at 10am on Place Saint Aphrodise (naturally!).
A bit about Saint Aphrodise Basilica
Saint Aphrodisius’s disciples hid out in the cave that he called home. Legend has it that the cave became the basilica’s crypt standing on the square named after the bishop. The beautiful pre-romanesque landmark is the oldest in town.