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Le Puy-en-Velay (with lunch)


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Back to Around Le Puy



Bishops of le Puy (pronounced pwii) played an early adopter role in both the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and the First Crusade. 


In 951 le Puy Bishop Godescalk was the first recorded "celebrity" to undertake the pilgrimage to Santiago.  Upon his return he ordered the building of the Chapelle St-Michel-d'Aiguilhe (photo below) and le Puy became the assembly point for the via Podiensis road to Santiago de Compostela in NW Spain.


Unrelated to Bishop Godescalk but also in the 900s, Sigeric the Serious, Archbishop of Canterbury in the days of King Aethelred the Unready, left a list of his stopping off points further to the east on a pilgrimage to Rome along the via Francigena in 990.


On November 27 1095 the French Clunaic Pope Urban II preached the First Crusade to a huge medieval gathering in a field in Clermont (now Clermont-Ferrand),  just  to the north of le Puy.  Families from the le Puy area were heavily involved in the crusade itself,  and the Papal Legate to the crusade was Adhemar, the Bishop of le Puy.





Medieval pilgrims walking south into Le Puy from Clermont (now Clermont-Ferrand), Brioude, and La Chaise Dieu would have seen the sights of the Chapelle St-Michel-d'Aiguilhe on the left and the Cathedral de Notre Dame on the right.  The Notre Dame statue in the middle did not appear until the 1800s - it was made from melted down canons captured from the Russian army after the successful siege of Sevastopol by French and British troops, which finally concluded on 8 September 1855.  Before then there was a castle there.  Other canons from Sevastopol were given to various European cities, and it is also claimed that they sourced Victoria Cross medals - bit of a loaves and fishes act probably.





Bishop Godescalk's Chapelle St-Michel-d'Aiguilhe - perched 82M (270 ft) in the sky and accessible to those in need (which we did not have) via 268 steps.  Sounds and looks high - but the Siena Torre del Mangia is higher still at 88M !





Cathedral of Notre Dame, Le-Puy-en-Velay

more photos




Rue des Tables




Rue des Pélerins




Across on the other side of town, the gentlest way of ascending to the cathedral is from the west.  In medieval times the steep and long Rue des Tables (above left) up to the west doors of the Cathedral was narrower, flanked by half timbered overhanging buildings, and jammed with the tables of trinket and pilgrimage memento sellers.  Another street, the Rue des Pélerins (above right), headed off to the south side of the cathedral steps and shared the passage of pilgrims setting off along the via Podiensis for the far distant Santiago de Compostela at the north western tip of Spain.


The eastern approach (right) to the Place du For and Cathedral is more vertically challenging.  In both cases it is arguable whether the slog up the hill is worth it.  Several people in the 1800s had a go at "improving" the run down church, but much of the ornamentation that makes Romanesque so attractive (like the isolated figure in the corner of the NE portal roof above) had gone and what is there now, including the cloisters, is in our view a very ordinary unatmospheric cold place, despite the hyperbole of some tourist handouts and pilgrim blogs.  Be aware also that the government run cloister (also not the Romanesque glory the publicity would have you believe) and the museum / bookshop in the cathedral, close for a long lunch break.


It's certainly worth coming back down via the Rue des Tables, because at the bottom of the hill is a really friendly good fooded restaurant.


more photos of the cathedral




Eastern Approach



Lunch at Le Petit Gourmand






Traditional French fish soup with croutons, mayonnaise and shredded cheese - always a safe choice and here outstanding.




The famous and very healthy le Puy green lentils recently became the first non-wine / cheese product to be given a DOC designation.



Despite the disappointment of the cathedral, and the fairly mundane 4 storey apartment block nature of much of the town, central le Puy had a nice feel about it and was pleasant to wander.  Le Puy is also easy to use as a base for some stunningly beautiful drives along its access roads (those to the east and west are in the top tier of beautiful roads we have driven in France).  Below our central IBIS hotel there was an in house "Maitre Kanter" seafood restaurant which we graced for two excellent dinners.  Across the restored parklet in front of the hotel is the old Verveine du Velay (digestivo) distillery.






Setting out on the beautiful drive from Le-Puy to Valence one re-encounters, amazingly, the River Loire - this is half of the old toll bridge into town.




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