Château de Bouthéon
This chateau is located between the “Vallée du Rhône” and the “Massif Central”.
The origins of the castle are from the 12th and 13th centuries. For hundreds of years, the successive owners: Lords, Earls, Dukes, etc modified, arranged and enlarged this house to adapt it to their needs and to reflect the fashions of their times. The chateau was a medieval stronghold, a pleasure estate, a Renaissance House and bourgeois apartments before its current use as a cultural museum and tourist destination.
The great families who have owned this chateau include the lords of Bouthéon, the Counts of Forez, the Lafayette, the Bourbon, the Gadagne, and the Coignet.
Since 1995, the city of Andrézieux-Bouthéon has owned the chateau. The mayor and his team decided to use this place to promote and protect the natural, cultural and human heritage of Loire-Forez.
Château de Grangent
This chateau wasn’t always on an island. Originally the chateau sat atop a rocky outcrop 60m off the ground which gave it strategic importance as it could keep watch over the valley. In 1957 the Grangent Dam was built on the Loire, flooding the area and leaving this chateau as its own island.
The first mention of the chateau was in 1147 in a treaty settling a dispute between the Count of Forez and the Archbishop of Lyon. It was most likely constructed in the 11th century, however the rocky outcrop itself appears to have been a defensive post as early as the 9th century when there were widespread invasions in the area. Written records tell us that the estate was owned by the Lords of Lavieu, the first house to hold the Barony of Cornillon and that it was looted during the Hundred Years War in 1388.
The tower’s construction is very similar to that of the neighboring Chambles Tower. Its walls are 1.6m thick and an access door is 3.7m above the ground, probably served by a staircase that no longer exists. Inside, the three floors are connected by square openings with hatches that were accessible by a ladder or rope. This provided maximum protection to the defenders.
The chateau was in ruins as early as 1564.
The chapel below the chateau seems to have been present since the 11th century, but it has undergone many modifications. Originally occupied by Benedictines, it was ravaged during the Wars of Religion at the end of the 16th century. It was restored around 1600 and became the main center of activity when the hermits of the Camaldolese order settled there.
There were 5 people who occupied the hermitage in the following decades, the last of which died in 1796 at the age of 88. The buildings were sold off as national property.
The chateau and the hermitage are currently both private property and can not be visited. The chateau was registered as a Historic Monument in 1945.
Perched on the mountain above the Grangent dam and the Château de Grangent is the Château d’Essalois.
The château stands on a natural strategic strong point that has been inhabited by mankind since ancient times. This was the location of the Gallic oppidum occupied by the Ségusiavi from 170BC to 25BC. Archaeological excavations revealed amphorae and coins, showing the existence of important trade with Italy (wine in particular), prior to the Roman occupation.
The chateau as it currently appears was built mainly in 1580 by Léonard de Bertrand, Seigneur of Essalois and master of water and forests in Montbrison. The castle was plundered by Catholic League troops in 1590.
In the 17th century, the seignory passed to the lords of Sury-le-Comtal, the De la Veuhes, and after them to the Sourdis family. Catherine d’ Entraigues, the widow of Pierre Sourdis, sold the seigniory in 1671 to the Camaldolese monks at Val Jésus. The monks kept the castle until 1798.
In the 18th century, the estate was sold as national property to Pierre Théollière of Réardière, and it then passed successively to several owners. At that time it was comprised of the old castle, consisting of two towers, a barn, farm buildings, and stables, surrounded by wood, forests, meadows, rocks, and heather, with approximately 718 smallholdings.
At the end of the 19th century, the chateau was in ruins. It was bought by Hippolyte Sauzéa, a merchant in Saint-Étienne who restored it and bequeathed it to the Hospices of Saint-Étienne.
In 1976, the Syndicat Mixte d’Aménagement des gorges de la Loire and the département of the Loire acquired the Château d’Essalois. Beginning in 1983, restoration began under the direction of Gilles Michelou, with the assistance of Mr. Lazar, architect of Bâtiments de France.
L’Église Saint-Pierre in Chambles
Chambles is a small medieval village typical of the gorges of the Loire with its tower, walls and romanesque church. From its granite promontory, the fortified village offers a magnificent panorama of the gorges of the Loire.
The oldest mention of the site is from 1040 when a Lord of the primitive house of Cornillon offered Saint Robert the lands of Chambles to establish a monastery. The first writings about the church itself date back to the 12th century when this monastery united with the more important monastery of Saint Rambert.
The establishment of a secular power dates back to the 13th century when the Lordship of Chambles appears in text for the first time. The presence of a chapel is mentioned at the same time, in the center of the old chateau of which only the dungeon currently remains.
The entire site was protected by 3 ramparts. The village was between the first and the second fortifications. The third wall provided a place of shelter for the inhabitants of the hamlets and their herds in case of attack. One of the access doors of the second wall, known as “Porte du Prieuré” is still visible today.
The medieval tower
The Chambles Tower is the old dungeon of the chateau and is a perfect example of a classic feudal defensive system. Its date of construction remains unknown, possible the 11th century, but the building looks very similar to the Grangent tower. The tower is 18m high with an equal circumference. Its walls are 1.40m thick. Its original access door is located about 8m from the ground and was accessible by a ladder that was removed in case of siege. The lower part of the tower, now accessible through a door that is not original, was probably used for storing food and weapons and was accessible by an internal ladder.
The upper platform offers a splendid view of the gorges of the Loire, Forez, and Pilat and is open to the public for free.
Originally integrated into the chateau, the church dominates the gorges since most of the ramparts disappeared. Little remains of the early Romanesque construction, except the apse, which was probably reworked at the beginning of the 17th century with the raising of the chevet and the incorporation of the original bell tower into what is now a strange half-round shape with buttresses. The choir probably dates back to the 18th century, but the three-aisled structure that is there today dates back to 1846 when a large part of the church was reconstructed. The church was then dedicated to Saint Peter.
The site was registered as a Historic Monument on August 22, 1947.
Château de Domeyrat
On the slope of a small hill, the Château de Domeyrat overlooks the village of Domeyrat and the Senouire River valley.
The first mention of the chateau was in the inventory of the vassals of Alphonse de Poitiers which was done between 1250 and 1260. At the time it was the property of the Papabeuf family. They remained the owner until 1348 when suddenly the family line disappears, probably due to the plague.
The chateau subsequently changed owners several times. Pierre de Montaigut in 1368, Catherine de Chateauneuf in 1375 with Adhemar Jory, to whom she then yields half of the land belonging to it. The sale only mentioned the Domeyrat lands and suggests the possibility that the chateau was already abandoned during the Hundred Years War.
In 1387 the new lord of Domeyrat was Pons de Langheac, seneschal of Auvergne. His son Jean de Langheac succeeded him as seneschal of Auvergne in 1419 and inherited the lordship in 1421. Under his control, the chateau is reshuffled considerably between 1431 and 1435. This is why he is considered the second builder of the chateau. The de Langheac family retained ownership of the chateau until the last descendant, Françoise de Langheac, died in 1619. Through her husband, the chateau then passed to the Rochefoucauld family. However, burdened with debts, Henry de la Rochefoucauld sold Domeyrat in 1656 to Christophe de Beaune.
Gradually the chateau is then abandoned. Once again debts force the last lord to abandon the chateau to his creditors in 1773. The estate is again enlarged by the new owners do not live in it.
After the French Revolution, the estate is shared between three communes: Domeyrat, La Chomette, and Montclard. Then between 1793 and 1795, the chateau is dismantled and the estate was broken into lots and sold off.
The General Council of Haute-Loire eventually bought the monument from different families.
The chateau is a cantoned dungeon-residence. It is rectangular in plan and consists of four circular towers and a square tower with rounded corners. The second enclosure consisting of towers and curtain walls has since disappeared.
It is surrounded by a polygonal enclosure with round towers lining a part of the central body. To the north, a tower protected the most vulnerable side of the fortress.
Two of the remaining towers hold the remains of paintings from the 16th century (hunting scenes in the north-western tower, religious scenes in the south-eastern tower, where the chapel was).
It was listed as a Historic Monument in 1983.
La Chaise-Dieu is a town in the Haute-Loire department of France. The Senouire river forms most of the eastern and western borders of the commune.
La Chaise-Dieu means “the House of God” in French and is a reference to the Benedictine abbey which was founded on the site in 1043 by Robert de Turlande. The abbey housed over 300 monks and had 42 outlying priories depending on it when Robert de Turlande died in 1067. After his death, Robert was quickly canonized (1095) as Saint Robert de Turlande. La Chaise-Dieu continued to grow throughout the Middle Ages.
Pope Clement VI began his vocation as a monk at Chaise Dieu and wanted to rebuild the old church into a monumental abbey that would house his tomb. Beginning in 1344, the work was carried out with great speed was practically completed at the death of the pope in 1352.
In the 1600s the monks of the community of Saint-Maur gradually replaced the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of la Chaise-Dieu.
After the French Revolution, the abbey is sold as national property. The abbey was secularized and the monks were scattered. The abbey complex was largely dismantled, however, Clement’s vast abbey church, his tomb, and the abbey cloister remain.
Under the Restoration and with the reformation of the diocese of Puy-en-Velay, the abbey became the parish church of La Chaise-Dieu in 1820.
In the 20th century, the abbey has become a cultural center, hosting a classical music festival and a series of major art exhibitions by the likes of Picasso and Dufy.
The Syndicat Mixte du Projet Chaise-Dieu has been renovating the complex since 2007.
Château de Saint-Ilpize
The commune of Saint-Ilpize surrounds the base of a massive basalt rock atop which stands the remains of this Chateau.
The first recorded mention of a fortified building here was in 1030. The castle was later modified in the 14th and 16th centuries.
For more than 150 years this was the residence of the Dauphins d’Auvergne. With successive fortifications added, the Dauphins were able to control the Allier river gorges. The city and its fortifications were so impressive that the city grew to have nearly 5,000 inhabitants in the fourteenth century. This prosperity continued until the 17th century.
During the Hundred Years War, the city was looted and burned by Thomas de La Marche. In 1424, Blanche Dauphine, inheritor of the chateau, married Jean de L’Espinasse. In 1480, the property passed to the house of Amboise, and, in the 16th century, to the house of Rochefoucauld-Langeac. The castle was sold during the French Revolution.
Today mostly ruins remain. The walls are dominated by the old chapel and a square tower serving as a steeple. Successive fortifications, flanked with towers, surrounded the lower courtyards and sections of the town which, by the 16th century, extended as far as the banks of the Allier. Only the uppermost fortification which protected the manor house still appears as a solid structure at the summit of the hill.
Considered a jewel of Romanesque architecture, the chapel of the chateau, which is made of volcanic stones and has a double-arched steeple, was renovated in 2001 under the auspices of the French Ministry of Culture.
The castle and the chapel have been listed since 1907 as a Historic Monument.
Basilique Saint-Julien de Brioude
In the heart of the city of Brioude is the largest Romanesque church in the Auvergne. It was built on the tomb of the martyr Saint-Julien who became the patron saint of the city.
The building of the church was spread over many centuries and through many incarnations. The first shrine to Saint Julien dates back to the end of the 4th century. It was built on the site of his alleged tomb by a Spanish woman in gratitude for the fulfillment of his vow. The Saint’s fame was growing and pilgrimages were beginning. The first church is then built. The Visigoth count of Auvergne adorns this church with marble from ancient monuments.
This Merovingian church was possibly destroyed by fire. Next, a Carolingian church was built in the 8th and 9th centuries. An Act of 874 mentions a group of 21 houses who were entrusted to guard the tomb of the saint. As the Carolingian Empire declined, possession of Brioude passed from the Wilhelmides to the Counts of Gevaudan, and then to the Counts of Auvergne. The cult of Saint Julien counts among itself the children of the largest families of Auvergne.
The construction of the current church dates back to the beginning of the 12th century. Brioude became a stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Rome, and Jerusalem. In 1223, after the annexation of the Auvergne to the royal domain, the cult acquired the feudal rights of the Counts of Auvergne on Brioude. The Cult of Saint-Julien maintained its hold on Brioude until the French Revolution. Afterward, the cult was suppressed. The church was reassigned to the use of the parish in 1794, after which one of its bell towers was destroyed and the other decapitated.
The restoration of the church was entrusted to the architect Aymon Mallay. His work was inspired by the other great Romanesque buildings in the Auvergne. The disparity of styles due to the rather long construction were erased in the process.
The church became a minor Basilica by the decree of Pope Pius XII on April 26, 1957.
The church has been listed as a Historic Monument since 1840.