Le Puy-en-Velay Things to Do

  • View of the belfry and dome.
    View of the belfry and dome.
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  • The pieta and the
    The pieta and the "pierre des fievres".
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  • Things to Do
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Most Recent Things to Do in Le Puy-en-Velay

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    Cloister of the cathedral (2)

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2008

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    Little part of the friezes
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    Beautiful friezes decorate the walls, above the arches all around the cloister; experts can tell about each character for hours, knowing each by name, what it symbolises; I just look, look ant the strange figures, think of the artists who created these sculptures, inhabited by nightmares, expressing their dreams and fears; yes, only for these 1000 years old sculptures, not at all “classical” Le Puy deserves a visit.
    The creators of these marvels are anonymous and long forgotten, but their art is really (to me!) among the most beautiful creations of mankind.
    Look at the other pictures, with details. . . . I am speechless! (and “writeless”); Hieronymus Bosh, Anton Piek are not far from here; strangely, also Asmat (west Paua) masks have some relationship with these sculptures.

    2 Euros, open every day.

    Next to the Cathedral

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    Cloister of the cathedral (1)

    by kokoryko Updated Mar 1, 2008

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    Little yard and well in the cloister
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    The cloister of Notre dame, located on the West side of the cathedral, built in the 10th century, renovated in mid 19th is described in books and guides as one of the most beautiful Roman buildings of Europe (hihi, Roman art elsewhere than in Europe? . . . in that case why not write of the World?).
    It is a rectangular cloister with a little garden in the middle, and a well, and one can spend hours and hours looking at the general lay out and the details you find on every column, arch, chapiter. . . . The French Revolution did not demolish the building, only “took care” of the inhabitants and their belongings. . . .
    Bishop Gotschalk (Gothescalk) decided to buid this cloister on return from a pilgrimage in Santiago in 962; Cordoba and Granada are not far when looking at the imbricate arches, with different coloured stones, the tile decoration above. Each chapiter is different, (ah and Notre Dame de France watches since 1854), sustaining the imbricate arches (picture 2).
    Sirens, anonymous characters are sculpted on the keystones, like on the three other pictures.
    It is just wonderful and so peaceful to sit in the little garden and look at all details on every single arch, chapiter, the walls, details and harmony. . . .

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    Notre Dame Cathedral (3)

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2008

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    Splendid black virgin
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    The Black Virgin of Le Puy

    Many pilgrims come to Notre Dame to receive the blessing of Santiago, but most come to venerate the famous black virgin in Le Puy. Here in the cathedral, She is the archetype, but in many little churches of Auvergne are other black virgins, in that strange posture, with a black Jesus looking out from the gown. She stands on an altar surrounded by blue curtains decorated with lily flowers (Symbol of the kings of France - pictures 2, 3),
    On pictures 4 and 5, are more general views of the choir, showing here a Roman style (the sides are Gothic), but renovated, but the style has been kept, with different coloured stones.
    In 1932, 300.000 worshippers gathered in Le Puy for the 28th Jubilee; the Jubilee is a day when Holy Friday is the same day as Annunciation; it happened 29 times since German Monk Bernhardt predicted the end of the world in 992, year when both events were to happen on the same day. Next Jubilee will be in 2016. . . . . . Le Puy is one of the three cathedrals (with Chartres and Paris) in France where Jubilees are celebrated.
    On 15th of August, every year, Le Puy is crowded with pilgrims and people coming for the celebrations of Assumption, and the feasts of the King and the Bird.

    Ah, this cathedral is of course on Unesco world heritage list.

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    Notre Dame Cathedral (2)

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2008

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    The Holy Patron of the pilgrims
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    Masses all day long. .. . .

    We are in a very catholic place, and from 6 am to 8 pm there are masses , either big ones in the main ship, or “smaller” ones, in the various little chapels. Be prepared to see lots of people in the cathedral, and most of them are not visitors, but “real” worshippers, so it is advised to be respectful. . . . . Walking along the ship along the right side you will meet Santiago at the entrance of the choir (main picture), who is of course venerated by the pilgrims on the way to Santiago. Notice that the vaults inside have been renovated in Gothic style.
    On the second picture, you see trekker - pilgrims asking for strength and luck on their way to Santiago, and on the third picture, is a pilgrim leaving the cathedral after a possible blessing from Santiago. . . . .
    Walking in the cathedral, you will see paintings, few statues and of course coloured glass windows; the one on fourth picture is from the 19th century, St John Baptist and Jesus.
    All sorts of pilgrims come to Notre Dame, even by air. . . . . . (picture 5); more in another tip about this sort of flying men. . . . .

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    Notre Dame Cathedral

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2008

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    Facade of Notre Dame
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    Wonderful Auvergne Roman art.

    I write “wonderful”, it is not just a stylistic word, it is really!
    When you arrive walking up rue des Tables, it appears in front of you, taking all the space, displaying its beautiful façade, the high central arch and the side arches, on top of a long monumental stairway; all lines underlined by different coloured stones, three other levels with roman arches, and the gable with open arches and different coloured stones. . . You cannot avoid wanting a closer look!
    The cathedral dates back to the 11th-12th centuries, built in place of an older sanctuary, itself replacing probably an older pagan sanctuary: since beginning, a holy place.
    From outside this cathedral reminds me Mauresque or Byzantine buildings, the different colours, the 5-6 concentric and offset half- circles of the arches, the big cupola. . . a bit of Orient here. . .
    More Orient when you see it from the stairs leading to Notre Dame de France statue (picture 3), and there you see also the little cloister on the side.
    You can look at the cupola, and see the work with the different coloured stones, decorating the high walls, simple geometrical patterns, all this with the style of the cupola also makes me think of Istambul. (a little bit!).
    Under the porch when you enter, look up and discover the 13th century paintings; they are not in best shape, but the colours are wonderful, and the characters are in the typical style of that time (picture 5); if I look at Byzantine or Venetian art, I am not lost. . . . .
    Let us now enter the cathedral. . . . . .

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    Little old streets. . .

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2008

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    Little cobblestone street
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    Walking in the old streets during the quiet hours of beginning afternoon is very rewarding for whom who looks for quietude, and looks for little architectural details on the old houses, frescoes, doors, medallions, . . . . ; before becoming a little industrial city, Le Puy was a rich merchants city and an important religious (of course!) centre, at the end of middle age and during Renaissance; the old city lay-out has almost not changed, many buildings have been preserved, and it is a charming atmosphere in the little streets. Let us just walk here in a few “ordinary” streets, then we will have a look at some buildings.
    Little streets with pebbles, not even cobblestones, narrow, with the sun getting its way between the high old houses, are a pleasure to walk up or down. . . .
    Other streets, laid out like long staircases, where people like to stop and have a chat with their acquaintances or the local people, perspectives under small arches, quiet moments of summer mid-day, with almost nobody outside, and the few walking are quickly disappearing at the street corners to go home, or for a shady shelter.
    The pictures here have been taken between rue Jules Valles and Place St Pierre La Tour, on the hill flank south east of the cathedral.

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    Espaly

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2008

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    Monumental statue of St Joseph
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    Saints, little bridges, basalt flows. . .

    All this and even more you can discover in this little suburb of Le Puy, located just west, 1.5 kilometers of the main city, on the direction of Loudes (airfield), at the end of Boulevard Gambetta, reaching the Route Départementale 590.
    Arriving in the village, you will be impressed by the monumental St Joseph statue (main picture), dominating the area; there is one of the three sanctuaries in France dedicated to Jesus’ father, created in 1855, the statue has been inaugurated in 1910. It is now the regular church of Espaly; On the second picture is the same statue dominating the castle of king Charles VII, not exactly renovated with style. . . .
    By far, I prefer to walk in the little streets, along the small river, where you can have a look at some old (renovated!) bridges, one dating back to the 14th century (picture 3). Little music of the water and the wind in the trees. . . .
    Espaly is well known for its orgues d’Espaly, a columnar basalt flow (Picture4); Le Puy area was till recently (a few tens of thousands of years!) the centre of important volcanic activity, and the sharp pitons of the area, some beautiful cinder cones, and here a lava flow are spectacular examples; to view this flow, best is to leave the car in the village and walk west till the restaurant “Les Orgues d’Espaly” , take a little path in the woods just opposite (Google Earth coordinates : 45°02’51”N 3°51’36”E)***, and follow it down to the river; you have a look at the basalt flow on the other side of the river; on the very easy (10 mn) walk in the shade of alders and poplars; you may even be lucky to find some special black berries which are quite yummy! (Picture 5).
    ***About Google Earth: I will write a warning in a travelogue, soon, it can get you lost!!

    Location, see text .
    About visit to the sanctuary and pilgrimage, see website
    Walking up in the statue: 1 Euro.

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    St Michel l’Aiguilhe (2)

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2008

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    St Michel and the Dragon
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    If you are innocent. . . , try it only twice!; the third time St Michel will not protect you.
    There is a legend with this chapel, about a young lady whose virginity and honesty had been put on trial. This lady prayed St Michel and she jumped from the 82 metres high rock. . . St Michel protected her and she landed smoothly, to the amazement of the judges and the crowds. It seems she liked the feeling of flying and tried it a second time. . . . she landed safely again, and as it seems she liked it too much (what a sin!!) she did it a third time, and. . . splaaash! In Auvergne are many versions of that story, the Auvergnats (Auvergne inhabitants), and have several interpretations for that story. This does not take anything out from the beauty of the building. This St Michel, (Picture 1) from the 14th century was may be busy with the Dragon at the third time.
    May be the sirens on the façade (picture2) above the main entrance are mourning this young lady for eternity.
    There are really lots of details to look at in this chapel, like the carved chapiters and gargoyles, (picture3), do not forget to look at the ceilings, where lots of “naïve” paintings (11th, 12th centuries) make a wonderful sky, full of angels and saints.
    Bishop Truanus, the founder of this chapel is probably represented on this 12th century painting at the base of a vault above a chapiter (picture5).

    It is a landmark in the city, you can’t miss: rue St Michel, on the north western corner of the old city.

    Open every day, from February 1st to November 11th

    Entrance: 2,75 Euros

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    St Michel l’Aiguilhe

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2008

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    The little chapel on the rock
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    Aiguilhe or Aiguille, the needle. This 82 m high rock piton, is a volcanic chimney. The little chapel on top is dedicated to St Michel, has been built in the tenth century. It was at the origins only a little chapel, and later, with the increase of the number of pilgrims, a small surrounding ambulatory has been built.
    Walking up the 220 stairs to the chapel is rewarded by nice overlooks (second picture) above the old city of Le Puy and the little marvel the chapel is.
    A tiny little jewel, with balanced proportions, a polychrome façade (picture 3), and inside, recent careful renovation revealed wall paintings from the twelfth century; wonderful shapes, forms, colours, in this tiny old roman chapel wonderfully lit by modern stained glass; small arches, small rooms, low ceilings (Picture4), it is an enchantment to spend half an hour here..
    A view of the paintings in the main room of the chapel and modern stained glass on the fifth picture show a nice combination of renovation, modern design with this sober cross and the stained glasses, and the roman vaults and the medieval atmosphere.
    Just amazement from a very beautiful High Middle Age Roman chapel; and if you (n)ever committed a sin. . . see next tip!

    It is a landmark in the city, you can’t miss: rue St Michel, on the north western corner of the old city.
    Open every day, from February 1st to November 11th

    Entrance: 2,75 Euros

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    Take a walk

    by Tamariis Written Nov 16, 2007

    This city is pleine de charme. Go for a walk down the narrow stone streets and alleys, this is a volcanic and hilly region and the city has a lot of little staircases in between buildings. I HAD to visit Saint Michel d'Aiguilhe Chapel...you climb a helluva lot of steps, which are carved into the volcanic rock, to get to the top but this chapel is breathtaking...I signed the guestbook :)

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    Take the Tourist Office Walking Tour

    by Radiomom Written Dec 11, 2006

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    Cathedral Notre Dame du Puy
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    There is a lot to this city, and you will be able to cover it well by following the TO's excellent walking tour. It takes about 2-3 hours, depending on how likely you are to stop and take pictures or pop into shops, etc. The highlight is the climb (and it IS a bit of a climb) up up via Podensis to the Cathedral and it's cloisters, etc. We didn't go into the cloisters, but the entire complex is still very much in use and quite fascinating. The Cathedral and the entire street leading up to it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    The cathedral you see today was built on top of an early Roman Christian and later Carolingian ediface. Its construction continued throughout the 11th and 12th centuries.

    Behind the Cathedral complex is a small plaza and a wall that includes the St. Georges Gate. This gate was used as a formal entrance to the Cathedral in the middle ages by Princes and other "important" people. The complex was apparently carefully guarded against the people who lived in the "lower" town.

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    Onwards to the Pink Madonna

    by tiabunna Updated Nov 29, 2006

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    The 'Pink Madonna' of Le Puy
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    Take your time inspecting the Cathedral, because you still have a further climb to the top of the Rocher Corneille, the Puy alongside you, around which the town has been built. Simply head up rue du Clottre, then up the stairs: you will have no problem finding your way, the Pink Madonna is well and truly visible ahead of you. Something to ponder as you climb: why is she painted such a shocking shade of pink? I don’t know the answer either!

    When you finally puff your way to the top, you are confronted by the massive statue Notre Dame de France, to give her the correct name. Including the base, she stands fully 22 metres high and was erected in 1860. There is a viewing platform around the base, scattered with captured Crimean War cannons – the statue itself, in fact, is made from other similar cannons which were melted down. I loved the view of the red tiled roofs of the town and of the surrounding district – but to get a reasonable photo of the Madonna you will need to get further back, which means going down the hill a little (it’s no good taking photos on the way up, there’s more camera shake when you are puffing).

    There is a charge to climb to the top of the Rocher Corneille, but it is now some years since our visit so I cannot give a current amount. Likewise, the visiting hours are confused, but in general it is open from 0900 to 1900 in the summer months, and from 1000 to 1700 in October to March – but closed entirely throughout December and January.

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    Other Puys

    by tiabunna Updated Nov 28, 2006

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    Looking north at Les Puys

    We didn’t pay them a visit, but from the top of the Rocher Corneille two other Puys are visible to the north. The nearest, at 80 metres height, is Rocher d’Aiguilhe. It is surmounted by the chapel of Saint-Michel-d’Aiguilhe, which apparently dates from the 10th century and is open to visitors prepared to make the climb (NB check the tourist office for opening times). We didn’t go there because of time constraints, but the guidebooks suggest the chapel is worth the effort.

    Some distance beyond the Rocher d’Aiguilhe is a further Puy, this time surmounted by what I recall was a monastery which is not open to the public.

    The photo, taken from alongside the Pink Madonna, shows the two other Puys quite clearly.

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    Walk the old town

    by tiabunna Updated Nov 28, 2006

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    Climbing the streets of Le Puy

    This is no place to be driving a car, except for getting to the town! So we found our way to Place du Brueil (the main square) and parked the car, then headed for the tourist office (Syndicate d’Initiative) to sort out accommodation. The SI office also has details on suggested walking tours of the town and we found them very helpful.

    After that, it was a matter of walking! The lower part of the town is reasonably modern, with quite wide boulevardes to clear the traffic: this also is the lower and flatter part of the town. From there, through the old town (toward the Pink Madonna) it becomes a matter of climbing. In places, wandering the streets of the old town even involves climbing staircases.

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    Market

    by ATLC Written Dec 17, 2003

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    Puy en Velay

    French markets are a treat. This one here is on Saturday and I bought fresh herbs, honey and could hardly resist lots of other local produce. But as you know: I had to drag home a suitcase so I really had to make do with looking and longing :-)

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