The oldest secular building in the city of Auch is a handsome brick and timber building at the corner of Rue Dessoles which was put up in the 15C and is today the tourist office. The streets around it are part of what is called the Pousterles in one of these we had a fine lunch.
The Pl. de la Liberation is just west of the Cathedral. and is the main thoroughfare of the upper town with the Hotel de Ville at its edge. On the north side of the Cathedral is the Prefecture which now is what was once the archiepiscopal palace which was built in the middle of the 18C.
The most spectacular sight in Auch is the staircase that runs between the upper town near the Cathedral and the the lower town near the Gers River. Part way down there is a flat terrace containing a statue to d'Artgagnan, the town hero. Just a littke north of the stairs stands a 40m tower from the 14C which was an ancient prison, just south of the Cathedral.
Another important item in the church occupies the axial royal chapel where the corner-stone of the church was set and which contains a "Mise en Tombeau". This sculpture is thought to have been created by Arnaud de Moles before starting on his stained glass windows (only a few years after da Vinci's Cena in Milan). There are also fine works in some of the chapels in the nave such as a late Renaissance work by Jean Douille of a Nativity and another of a Last Supper. This church is also unusual in having two excellent organs. The older one was built between 1690-94 by a great organ builder named Jean de Joyeuse. It stands just inside the West end of the Nave and is used for an annual Baroque concert series, only partly visible when were there. A more recent organ is set upon the transept side of the choir and is also widely regarded as superior machine
The enormous group of choir stalls was created between 1520 and 1554 by anonymous artists. Most were flamboyant Gothic but some were in later styles. In the early 17C they were enclosed on the east by a reredos. The seat backs each have a statue from the Bible starting with Adam and Eve through Peter and Paul. On the west wall of the choir is a large Jube and beyond it is a second important organ.
At the start of the 16C the work of Arnaud de Moles employs larger pieces of colored glass and usually achieves many shades of color in a single piece. The central sections are of human size figures and are clearly realistic persons with embellished features. Most stained glass after this group are known by the names of their creators. In this period, painting on flat surfaces became the method usually used and stained glass became progressively less often seen and almost disappeared until the middle of the 19C. During this time almost all of the window work became painting on glass , a lower quality of work. Only a small number of true glass works made all over Europe are enjoyed. The greatness of this type of creativity was only recognized in the 20C by Emile Male and other Art historians The last window of this set is of the Resurrection. In the central section on the left is Saint Thomas, in the center the arisen Jesus and on the right the Mary Magdalene. The second picture is of Elijah, the apostle Jude (or perhaps Simon), the Delphic Sibyl (and the Crown of Thorns) and finally Augustin of Hippo. The third picture is Joshua, the Sibyl Europe and Amos.
The eighteen multiple paned stained glass windows fill the long choir outer edge. The series starts at the northwest end with a large pairing of Adam and Eve with the serpent between them. The set continues around the east end to the last of the set at the southwest edge of the choir containing the Resurrection. The next two windows concern Noah, Ezekiel,the apostle Pete and the Erythraean Sibyl (2) and then Abraham, Melchisedich, the apostle Paul and the sibyl of Samos (3). There are various stories above and below each central set of three or four people. In this set we include a small Annunciation and a Birth of Jesus scene.
Arnaud de Moles was a master glazier from Gascony who created the 18 large lower level stained glass windows around the east chapels of the church. They were made between 1507-13 and are a set, but were only dedicated with the still incomplete church in 1549. Unlike earlier stained glass windows, these were made with large pieces of glass and often with many shades of color in single pieces and figures as realistic as painted pictures of this period. de Moles did sculptures in wood also, but these windows are his greatest works and are as fine as the paintings being done at this time by the Italians and others. Only a few individual other windows by him still exist. The most Eastern window contains a Crucifixion of Jesus surrounded by Marie, Mary Magdalene and Apostle John. Two further central figure set are in the next window pictures and also other smaller items.
This is an examples of a late Flamboyant Gothic Cathedral started in 1489. The incomplete church was consecrated in 1548 by which time the famous stained glass windows and the choir stalls were in place and the church was used through the transept. The rest of the vessel was only finished in in 1661. The West Towers were added with a carillon by 1681. As used today the chevet and choir are only for display of their furnishings. The regular church activities occur beyond the west side of the Jube. The length of the entire church is over 100 feet long with a fine Rose window at the end. Beyond this is a set of porches with towers and balustrades above.
The Cathedral Sainte-Mairie d'Auch was begun in 1489 and completed in 1683. It is essentially flamboyant Gothic with some classic and baroque finishings. The church replaced an earlier Romanesque one which was destroyed by fire. The most famous elements of the church are a set of 113 choir stalls and 62 stained-glass windows and rose windows. The windows were created at the beginning of the 1500's. They are made with very large pictures in an advanced technic not seen in earlier works.
Very little is known about 16th Century Gascon artist Arnaud de Moles yet he created one of the great artistic treasures of the Renaissance - the eighteen stained glass windows of Auch cathedral. The whole series, created in or around 1513, also has suspected hidden meanings - a real-life Da Vinci Code if you like - that is still not fully understood. It has been suggested that, complicated as the series of windows is, there is even more hidden away. For example, the very first window (Creation of the World) has 28 different elements or themes and that is one of the most simple; the next set has 60 elements and other possible subsets. Even on the face of it, many of the windows require a 'key' to decode the main themes (the key is usually held by a sybil - for example, a palm in the hand of the sybil on the right of the second set of panes).
De Moles windows, each one a major work of art in its own right, forms a quite incredible series of art, weaving multiple stories, themes, messages and morals through the eighteen pieces.
The narrow streets of the old town are full of interesting and delightful shops, restaurants and bars.
The main produce on display are Armagnac, fois gras, wine and cheese, but there are boutiques and card shops as well.
Assuming you make it past the statue of D'Artagnan, half way up the 232 steps of the L'escalier Monumental, you will eventually reach the Tour d’Armagnac.
This 14th century tower was once a prison. Unfortunately you can't go inside it, but it dominates the skyline from miles away.
From the banks of the river Gers, a broad flight of 232 steps (L'escalier Monumental) takes you up to the cathedral and the old town. Part way up, the statue of Gascony's favourite fictional son allows you to stop for a breather.
There was apparantly a real character called Charles de Batz who was the basis for Alexander Dumas' Fourth Musketeer.
Created on December 16, 1793, the museum of Auch counts among the oldest museums of France.
Today installed in the old Convent of the Jacobins, the museum has a great diversity of collections gathered in five great sections:
Antiquities, Art of the Middle Ages, America, Art and artists of South-west; and Art and the popular traditions of Gascogny.
Schedules (except Monday and public holidays):
May 1 to September 30: 10h (12h - 14h closed for lunch) until 18h
October 1 to April 30: 10h (12h - 14h closed for lunch) until 17h