The Auvergne: the vibrant heart of French culture
The Auvergne's cultural heritage is both simple yet generous. Its beauty is accessible to all and is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression upon you.
Among its many treasures, Romanesque art is particularly well represented here, with more than 250 buildings making the Auvergne's Romanesque heritage one of the richest in Europe. History lovers can have fun discovering the many castles built here during the Middle Ages.
The Romanesque church trail
The Auvergne has around 250 religious buildings, erected between the 11th and 13th centuries. Together, these comprise an outstanding cultural heritage characterised by their extreme purity and unity. The Auvergnat Romanesque style can be admired in particular in five major buildings: Notre Dame du Port in Clermont-Ferrand (listed as UNESCO world heritage), Saint-Saturnin, Saint-Austremoine in Issoire, Notre Dame du Mont-Cornadore in Saint-Nectaire and Notre Dame d’Orcival.
The area around Clermont-Ferrand is not the only one to possess major buildings in the Auvergnat Romanesque artistic style.
In the Allier area we should mention the churches of Châtel Montagne and Saint Menoux, while in the Cantal area Notre Dame des Miracles in Mauriac and Saint-Georges in Riom-es-Montagnes are both well worth a visit.
Other "must-see" architectural gems include the basilica of Saint-Julien in Brioude, superbly renovated in 2009 and the Notre Dame Cathedral site (listed as world heritage of humanity) in Le Puy-en-Velay, the famous starting point for the Via Podiensis, which continues on to Santiago de Compostela.
When you stop off in Le Puy-en-Velay in the Haute-Loire (a town listed as UNESCO world Heritage) you immediately get a feel for what it must be like to be a pilgrim travelling along the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela.
In Vichy in the Allier area, a town renowned internationally for its spas, you'll quickly appreciate why Napoleon III was so smitten with the town, and had an opera, hotels and luxury villas built here.
The Auvergne Castles History Trail
Situated in the very heart of Europe, the Auvergne is a land of castles, most of which are still inhabited, and which stand as living witnesses to the region’s historical, artistic and architectural heritage.
Visiting them provides a chance to learn more about the history of the Auvergne and about history in general. These ancient buildings are brought to life for special events, exhibitions, concerts, performances or receptions, and many also offer bed and breakfast accommodation. Visit the website for the Castle Trail where you will be directed to the website for each castle, enabling you to find out about the activities on offer (types, exact dates, times, photos, etc). Have fun on the Auvergne Castles Trail!