Le Puy-en-Valey

FRANCE AUVERGNE HAUTE LOIRE Le Puy-en-VelayLe Puy-en-Valey (usually referred to as Le Puy, pop 19,976) is the capital of the Haute-Loire department and it is surrounded by the rugged environment that is typical of the Massif Central. Encircled by mighty mountains, conical hills and thick woodlands, Le Puy-en-Valey is marked by three distinct volcanic plugs that pierce through the town’s surface.

Best known since the medieval times, as one of the four departure points for the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route from France, Le Puy-en-Valey also gained a reputation in the region for being a centre of lace-making and tanning. However, these industries have now died out, leaving just one other accolade alive- its Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée status for the locally grown green lentils (a king amongst its kind as it grows in rich volcanic soil).

Layout
The centrally located main square is at Place du Breuil and the old city (where the cathedral stands) is situated north of this. You can arrive via train at the SNCF station [Place Maréchal-Leclerc] at the east of town.

 

 


 


FRANCE AUVERGNE HAUTE LOIRE Le Puy-en-Velay rocher et chapelle Saint-Michel-D'Aiguilhe




Perhaps the most extraordingry sight in an extraordinary town is the precariously perched Chapelle St-Michel d’Aiguelhe staring straight at you from across the peak of Rocher d'Aiguile (Needle Rock). The chapel stands on an 82m volcanic thrust and it boasts great history, as it dates back to the 10th century. The highlights are its 10th century choir and 12th century murals. It is thought that ancient dolmens were used in the construction of the church, and that the Romans worshiped the winged Mercury here.   You can grind your way up its 268 stone steps to discover why this place has been so sacred to so many.


 

 

 

You can stroll along the streets of rue du Collége, rue Pannessac and rue Porte Aiguére to sight the fantastic black-stoned medieval houses, which have been mainly erected in Renaissance or Gothic styles. The Jardin Henri Vinay located in the heart of town also makes for a great walk, as it is home to a swan lake and a tiny children’s zoo.



FRANCE AUVERGNE HAUTE LOIRE Le Puy-en-Velay
Works on the ancient Cathedrale Notre-Dame began back in the 11th century. Hence, this eclectic building features Romanesque, Byzantine and Moorish elements in its architecture. Like its sister church in Le Puy, the site has ancient pagan connections and a dolmen is also incorporated into the construction as its divinity was recognized by the early worshipers. It has been moved and re-sized several times
and is now embeded in the floor of the Saint Crucifix Chapel left of the altar. The colourful Cathedrale Notre Dame is known for its multi-tinted stonework, six domes which can be found in the nave, and the 17th century Black Virgin statue that is found in the high altar. The 12th cloister might even look a little Spanish to visitors, as its stones are each a different hue. This cathedral was once one of the main departure points for pilgrims who were headed to Spain. 



FRANCE AUVERGNE HAUTE LOIRE Virgin statue Notre Dame

A conspicuous sight in the Le Puy is the Rocher Cornielle [+33 471041133 ad/ch €3/1.50]. You can always look up to the sandstone-coloured, larger than life statue of the Virgin holding a baby Jesus for direction if you have lost your bearings. The Virgin statue is hard to miss and has become an icon of the town. She blesses the town from 755m above sea level and is encircled by a base that allows visitors to sight her in all her glory. If you make your way up to the base you will also be rewarded with a stunning view of Le Puy unfolding below your feet.




You can drop by the Centre d’Enseignement de la Dentelle de Fuseau [38-42 rue Raphaël, +33 471020168, www.ladentelledupuy.com, ad/ch €3.50/Free] to discover Le Puy’s lace making history, once you are ready to step out of the trail of religious sights. This Centre preserves the lace making tradition via exhibitions and workshops that teach this ancient art which was once a thriving industry in the town (Le Puy used to house close to 500 workshops in its heydays). The centre’s gallery features lace works from the 17th to 20th centuries, documenting the evolution of this material. The gallery also houses the world’s largest lace and pillow that is held in place by over a thousand bobbins.

 

 


LE PUY-EN-VELAY STREET MAP
  1. Tourism Office  2. Train station  3. Chapelle St-Michel d’Aiguelhe  4. Cathedrale Notre-Dame  5. Rocher Cornielle  6. Centre d’Enseignement de la Dentelle de Fuseau

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