Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Saint Flour, France - visited July 6, 2012

Nestled between two volcanic mountain regions in the Massif Central of the Haute Auvergne region, Saint Flour offers an insight into rural medieval France amid the grandeur of a volcanic landscape. The medieval town of 6,500 or so is on the top of the Auvergne's highest volcanic outcrops and is in the Cantal department in the Auvergne region in south-central France. The upper city is located on a volcanic dike, the lower city extends to the banks of the river Ander. There are a number of megalithic graves in the area known as dolmens that probably originated in the bronze age and there is ample evidence to confirm Roman occupation.
During the French Revolution Saint Flour took several successive names. De-Christianized first as Fort-Cantal then Fort-Libre then Mont-Flour before readopting its original name in 1793. The territory of the commune was never changed. Briefly, between 1790 and 1795 it served as the préfecture of the newly-created département, before Aurillac succeeded to that position. The population at the time was around 5,300, about 1200 less than today.
Proclaimed as religious capital of Haute-Auvergne in 1317, Saint-Flour didn't have its own cathedral until the following century. Built in the 15th century, on the ruins of the priory founded by Saint Odilo of Cluny, Abbot of Cluny, in the 11th century, the cathedral offers an foreboding exterior facade and a black Christ inside. More pictures here.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Mende, France - visited July 4, 2012

Mende (pronounced "Monder"), is the capital of the Lozère department in the mountainous area of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It is a small city of population about 12,000 and is dominated by an enormous 14th century Gothic cathedral. The basilica style cathedral is dedicated to Notre-Dame and Saint-Privat and was built by Pope Urbain V who was born in the area. Although originally in the Gothic style, a radical makeover was undertaken in the first half of the seventeenth century. Mende is at the doorstep of the Cevennes National Forest close to the Gorges du Tarn, a massive 25-mile canyon.
The are records mentioning Mende dating back to the 3rd century although it wasn't until the Middle Ages that the city really began to thrive. Mende suffered during the Wars of Religion and also from visitations from the plague before finally settling to become the department capital while retaining a small-town feel. A few additional pictures are here.