The bronze statue of Notre-Dame de France stands on top of the Corneille Rock, and is made from 213 Russian cannons taken in the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855). It was presented to the town on the 12th of September 1860.
The initial approach is via the Cathedral. It is a reasonably easy ascent, with many places to stop and rest and view the countryside. There are also benchs, toilets and fountains on the way up.
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.
This Cathedral is a national monument of France, and has been a centre of pilgrimage in its own right since before the time of Charlemagne, as well as forming part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Since 1998 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the "Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France".
It forms the highest point of the city, rising from the foot of the Rocher Corneille, and contains architecture of every period from the fifth century to the fifteenth. However, most of the construction dates from the first half of the 12th century.
We spent several hours wandering through many of the nooks as well as the climb up to the Statue and also INTO the Statue (see other Tips). For many other photos see the TRAVLOGUE.
As you puff up the hill, eventually you will find yourself at the Cathédrale Notre Dame, at the top of rue des Tables. It is mainly of Romanesque form with Byzantine additions, making it a considerable contrast in style to the better known Gothic cathedrals. As it is built largely from dark volcanic rock, we found the interior rather gloomy, but it is quite a spectacular and different structure in its own right. I’d suggest you will obtain the best photo from up toward the Pink Madonna.
The main point of fame for this cathedral is that it houses a Black Madonna. That’s it in the second photo accompanying this tip (sorry about the quality). As can be seen, it is not large. I gather that the original was destroyed in the Revolution and that the one now on display is a replica. Please don’t ask me about its significance, that isn’t my territory. :)) Update: my VT friend lynnehamman has found more information at this web address - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black Madonna . Suffice to say that, if you’re a Black Madonna enthusiast, there’s one here.
Main photo: Cathédrale Notre Dame and the rooftops of Le Puy
Second photo: The Black Madonna of Le Puy
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.
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.
Another worthwhile climb in Le-Puy! In one of the photos, part way up, in the distance see the Statue of Notre-Dame de France. Beautiful views of course from here, too.
Much to see inside, and there are more photos in the Travelogue below.
If you need more excersize, you are allowed to actually climb up into the Statue, which has several viewpoints along the way, thru small windows.
The statue is 16 meters high and weighs 110 tons. The statue is made up of 105 bolted on pieces, which are visible from inside (see photos).
“La Fayette nous voila”; that was what the American troops told when they came to Europe in 1917, during WW1, to help the French and their allies against the German in Northern France.
They remembered La Fayette who contributed to the birth of U S A, specially at the battle of Georgetown.
La Fayette was born in the castle of the village of Chavaniac (Now Chavaniac - La Fayette), and travelled to America to fight for freedom of the colonies (euh, or against the English. . . ), and the little village of Chavaniac is very proud of his child.
The castle which has been purchased by an American millionaire in 1917 has been renovated and is now managed by a French-American institution; an interesting museum and a beautiful garden are worth a visit here.
The visit of the castle takes about 1 hour with a guide, and you will go through many rooms of the castle, from the kitchen to La Fayette’s sleeping room, via many big reception rooms, where is mainly 18th – 19 th century mobiliar; along the visit you will learn about La Fayette’s achievements, his friendship with Washington and his political life after he returned from America, his battles with the Parisian Revolution Establishment. If you American are not catholic and do not make a pilgrimage to Le Puy, you may go there and pay respect to one of the founders of your country. . . .
Guided visit only: 5 euros,
July August 9 am – 6 pm every day
1st April, 15th November, 10-12 am, 2 – 6 pm
Verveine du Velay
The famous Verbena liquor of Velay which comes in green or red, is elaborated in Le Puy since 1859 with 32 different herbs, the Verbena being the most important; the recipe (proportions, distillation type, time of maceration of each, etc. . . ) is of course a secret. Since 1886, the Pages family runs the distillery.
I am not very fond of sweet alcoholic beverages, but many mothers in law appreciate. . . . Besides its “unequalled taste”, it is said to be a good digestive liquor, helps to sleep, etc. . . Well, it is a very good liquor, but I do not have at home. Those who know the Chartreuse liquor from the Alps, or the Izarra, from the Basque country (did you notice, they all come from mountain areas?) may find some similarities with the Verveine du Velay.
Good in Le Puy, is that tourists can visit the distillery (the modern one, located in the close by industrial area), learn about mountain plants during that visit, a bit about distillery techniques , have a liquor tasting session, and will be offered a big of choice in other products from the distillery; but the Verveine is the typical one!
On the second picture is the campanile on the roof of the old headquarters of the Pages family, and the third picture shows this building located in the lower part of Le Puy.
Visit information on the website (English version).
This lovely Cathedral that was built in the 11th & 12th centuries, is built in the shape of a Latin Cross. The Cathedral is perched on a volcanic rock named either " Mount Anis or Corneille Rock " and overlook's the city of Le Puy-en-Velay.
THE LEGEND OF THIS CATHEDRAL IS..........
"In the 8th century, a woman suffering from a fever was inspired by a vision, to visit the rock on which the cathedral now stands. There she fell into a feverish sleep. When she awoke, her fever had gone and she saw the Virgin Mary seated on a dolmen next to her. The Virgin said she wanted a church to built in that place. Although it was July, several inches of snow covered the ground and a stag marked out the floor plan of a huge church with his hooves.
St. George was Bishop of Le Puy and he came to see the miracle for himself. He wished to obey the Virgin's request, but he had no money for such a grand church. So he made do with planting a thorn hedge over the ground plan until such funding could be found. The next day, the hedge bloomed with flowers.
Some time passed, and another healing occurred. The bishop (now a man named Vozy) therefore went to Rome to ask for permission to build a cathedral on the site. It was granted, and the Pope provided a Roman architect to build it. When it was completed, the bishop set out for Rome again to arrange its consecration, but two old men appeared to him on the way and said, "we shall go before you and take charge of all." Returning to the cathedral, the Vozy found it bathed in strange light, its bells ringing by unseen hands."
Since the Middle Ages, Le Puy Cathedral has been the main starting point in France for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
To accommodate increasing numbers of pilgrims, the cathedral was lengthened to the west by a third bay sometime before 1000 AD and a fourth bay was added in the 11th century. Finally, in the 12th century, the last two western bays were added.
You have to walk up a hill to the Cathedral, so once again, you need to be a little fit!
Open daily 6:30am-7:30pm. Tours in French from early July to late Aug. Free.
There is too much to see in Le Puy. . . well, beauty is never too much, but there are lots of other churches to visit, and also, when you walk in the streets you will see remains of the ramparts, beautiful “hotels particuliers” (mansions), mainly of renaissance style, little towers. . . What I like is a bit the austere style of the buildings, not a lot of colours or paints; the shapes, the texture of the volcanic stones give a special cachet to the buildings. . . What to do? Walk and keep the eyes open, every time I come to Le Puy, I discover something new.
Main picture is Tour Panessac, a tower which guarded the western entrance of the old city.
On the second and third pictures is Chapelle St Clair, located at the foot of the Aiguilhe Rock a little chapel where the different volcanic rocks used to build it really give a special style to this building.
There are beautifully carved doors at entrances of schools, convents, or other institutions, like on fourth picture,
And I like this 17th century very classical house, on Place du Greffe (Picture 5), this luminous façade, the high windows. . . nothing really special, just nice on the little place with the trees. Ah, the sign says it has been sold. . . . . I’ll try next time. . . . .
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
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. . . . . .
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. . . .