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In 1289, Montpellier’s school of medicine and law gained university status. Its roster of famous alumni includes the creator of prophecies, Nostradamus, and the author Rabelais. The open-minded and liberal Montpellier was faced with several challenges over the next centuries. It was struck by the plague in the 1300s, and later became a stronghold for the French Protestants, the Huguenots. Until the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, they fought a losing battle against the Catholic Church and the French crown. By the time these religious wars ended, all surviving Huguenots had either surrendered or fled to England, Ireland or America.
Today, Montpellier is known for its university and a quarter of its citizens are students. The beautiful medieval area, “centre historique,” is a pedestrian haven with marbled alleys like L’Ancien Courrier. Low-set medieval buildings and churches adorn the area’s 16 squares, including the one in the city centre, Place de la Comédie.