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You'll simply love Brioude, a town in the Auvergne which marvellously combines cultural and natural heritage. Built around the basilica of Saint-Julien, (one of the Auvergne's finest Romanesque monuments famous for its contemporary stained glass windows), Brioude stretches out gracefully along the river Allier. In addition to its streets and squares with their crystal clear fountains, you'll also come across a salmon museum before reaching the Allier gorges, from where you can set off hiking or rafting.
In Brioude, a love of nature and a relaxed lifestyle combine with a respect for religion. The basilica of Saint-Julien is the largest church dating from the Auvergne's Romanesque period. The construction of this building lasted from the 11th to the 13th century. This is a major stage on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
The painted capitals and acanthus leaves bring to mind the various themes, bestiaries and scenes of hell to be found in the Auvergne's churches. A multicoloured cobbled floor produced from pebbles taken from the Allier has now been unveiled in the crypt. The furnishings and painted decorations (including Christ in Majesty in the chapel of Saint-Michel) bear witness to the glorious past of the canon-counts.
With the stained glass designs from the Korean painter Kim En Joong, contemporary painting has taken its place in a religious building with the creation of an unusual decor ideal for encouraging contemplation and meditation thanks to the subtle yet lively interplay of light and colour on the Romanesque stone.
As you explore the streets, discover the maisons canoniales (religious houses), timber framed houses, turrets, fountains, or private residences converted into museums. You can also admire a tribute to the river Allier, as in Brioude (formerly the area's "Salmon capital") 16 aquariums await you at the Maison du Saumon et de la Rivière (Salmon and River Centre) which includes a 23 m (75 ft) loop known as the Salmon River. No shortage of surprises are in store!