Le Puy-en-Velay is the prefecture of the Haute-Loire department in central southern France‘s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. The city, which is close to the Loire River, is well-known for its cathedral, a particular variety of lentils, its lacemaking, and for being the starting point of the Chemin du Puy, one of the main pilgrimage routes leading to Santiago de Compostela in France. The population of the commune was 18,995 in 2017.
In the center of the Massif central, Le-Puy-en-Velay is a medieval village in a stunning environment surrounded by steep hills and the area’s iconic conical volcano forms. Le Puy is a little challenging to get to because of its remote location, but the trip is worthwhile because, despite its location, the town attracts more than 700,000 tourists annually.
The history of Le Puy-en-Velay
By the early Middle Ages in France, Le Puy-en-Velay was a significant bishopric. It has a mostly legendary foundation. According to a martyrology compiled by Ado of Vienne, printed widely in 858, and amended by Gauzbert in the middle of the tenth century of Limoges, a priest by the name of George traveled to Gaul with a specific Front, the first Bishop of Périgueux.
The front was added to the list of apostles to Gaul, who, according to tradition, were dispatched to regroup Christians following the persecutions attributed to Decius around 250. The actions of Saint-Front and the priest George were pushed back in time by later mythology, just like those of the other group members, most notably Saint Martial of Limoges. According to the story, George was brought back to life by the touch of Saint Peter’s staff.
St. George becomes one of the seventy disciples of the Gospel of Luke in the growing legend of the saint, which the Church historian Louis Duchesne claims to have originated no earlier than the eleventh century. It mentions that he founded the church of the [civitas] quid dicitur Vetula in pago Vellavorum, or, as a record from 1004 put it, the city “named Vetula in the lands of the Vellavii.” In the fourth century, this is what the town of Ruessium started to be named. According to the life of Saint Eligius, pagans continued to create small images of the “old woman,” known as vetula, in Flanders as late as the sixth century. This was Le Puy’s original cathedral.
Cultural Heritage of the Le Puy-en-Velay
The most impressive location is where the colorful city of Puy-en-Velay is located. The chapel Saint-Michel is positioned on a rocky hilltop with 268 stairs leading up to it, while the cathedral and Hôtel-Dieu, protected by UNESCO, are located high up on the hill. From the 12th century on, it developed into a wildly popular pilgrimage destination, hosting 13 kings, including Charlemagne and Saint Louis. According to legend, Saint Louis carried the first Black Madonna statue from the 7th Crusade to Le Puy-en-Velay and presented it to the town.
At the Le Puy-en-Velay
Le Puy is most known for serving as the beginning of one of the primary French pilgrimage routes leading to Santiago de Compostella and for the religious landmarks that were created due to this significant historical significance. The following list includes the top historical sites in Le-Puy-en-Velay.
Be aware that each of the three religious institutions has an admission fee, so if you plan to visit all three, purchase a combined entry ticket at your first stop to save a lot on the overall cost of entry.
Activities & Landscapes to do & see in Le Puy-en-Velay, France
One of the most famous attractions in the Puy-en-Provence region, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-l’Annonciation, is a Historic Monument-Velay and a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the Santiago de Compostela Trail.
It is a significant Romanesque-style monument built at the end of the eleventh century. At the time of its construction, Byzantine architecture had a considerable influence on the structure, located at the base of the Corneille rock. It displays a unique fusion of architectural styles, which gives it all of its beauty. The porch from the end of the 12th century, which appears Romanesque but has Gothic windows and a vault on ribs, cannot be missed outside.
The mid-19th century restoration of the 12th-century cloisters’ red, ocher, and white polychrome mosaic evokes Spanish Arabic architecture. A significant collection of artworks are on display in the cathedral, including the statue of Saint James, the Byzantine and Italian frescoes in the north transept and porch, and the reliquary from the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament that contains a modern replica of the Madonna and Child.
However, the Black Madonna displayed in the cathedral is what makes it so famous and why many committed Christians travel there. The current statue is a replica of the one that King Louis IX of France presented upon the Seventh Crusade’s return but was later destroyed during the French Revolution.
The Notre Dame de France statue is located atop the Corneille rock, overlooking the church. The latter, which is painted crimson and stands more than sixteen meters tall, was built in 1860 using the melted parts of the guns captured during the Battle of Sevastopol. One has an unbeatable view of the city’s red roofs from the rock’s platform. The statue was renovated at the end of 2012 and added to the list of Historic Monuments.
Events of Le Puy-en-Velay
From May to October
The “Puy de Lumières” light show: dusk is a romantic and enchanting time with lights projected onto the cathedral and other city structures.
Mary the Blessed Virgin Holiday: The Assumption Feast commemorates Our Lady’s journey to heaven. Each year, about 10,000 people attend the event at Le Puy-en-Velay.
Festival de la Chaise-Dieu, a classical music festival: Concerts are hosted in Le Puy-en-Velay as a part of the acclaimed Festival de la Chaise-Dieu.
The King of the Oiseau at the Renaissance Festival: The community organizes a competition to choose the best archer in the area while dressing historically accurate. Incredible, vibrant, and a one-of-a-kind event for the entire family.
Festival of hot-air balloons: It is a breathtaking sight to see dozens of vibrant hot-air balloons take off and drift over this UNESCO World Heritage Site, whether you are in the air or on the ground.
Climate of the Le Puy-en-Velay
Le Puy has an oceanic climate (Cfb) despite having a coldest month that is typically just above freezing due to its height, which is similar to a warm-summer humid continental climate (Dfb) according to the Köppen system. As in Saint-Étienne in the neighboring department of Loire, the city experiences frequent snowfall and at least four months of average low temperatures below freezing during the winter. The summers are delightfully warm, with scorching days and chilly evenings. The lowest temperature recorded was 22 °C on March 5th, 2005.
How to get in Le Puy-en-Velay
The N88 trunk route connects Lyon and Toulouse and passes through Le Puy. Between Le Puy and Saint Etienne, where it relates to the A47 freeway, the N88 is essentially a dual-carriageway. Le Puy is situated along the N102, which connects Montélimar and Clermont-Ferrand. This is a section of the suggested toll-free road between northern France and Provence.
Take the TGV from Paris or Lyon to Saint-Etienne, where you may connect to a local train that will take you to Le Puy. The Loire Gorge is followed by the railway from just after Firminy to the outskirts of Le Puy, which is sluggish but quite picturesque. Le Puy can also be accessed from Clermont Ferrand by local train; the journey is slow but beautiful.
The French city of Le Puy does not have an easy access. The airport at Le-Puy-Loudes offers two flights (during the week) to and from Paris Orly. Flying to Lyon Saint Exupéry airport is the best option.