The region of Auvergne is located in central France.
The region is surrounded by the regions of
Bourgogne to its north,
Centre to its northwest and west,
Midi-Pyrenees to its southwest,
Languedoc-Roussillon to its south and
Rhone-Alpes to its east.
Auvergne is composed of four départements.
The département of
Allier , is located in the north,
Cantal , in the southwest,
Haute-Loire , in the southwest and
Puy-de-Dome , in the region’s center.
The capital of Auvergne is the city of
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The Location of Auvergne
The region of Auvergne is found in France’s Massif Central.
The Massif Central is a large, somewhat arid upland area of south central France.
It covers about one-sixth of France’s area and, at Puy de Sancy, it reaches an elevation of 6188 feet.
Puy is the French word for a volcanic summit.
The Massif Central’s land area encompasses all, or part of the regions of Auvergne, which is located in the center of the Massif,
Clermont-Ferrand, and Limoges are major industrial centers. Besides heavy industry, the region supports sheep and goat raising, dairy farming, and coal and kaolin mining.
Several major hydroelectric facilities also are here, notably on the Cère, Dordogne, Lot, Tarn, and Truyère rivers.
The Auvergne Mountains are the source of the Dordogne River, just south of Monts Dore in the region of Auvergne.
At first it flows southwest and then turns west, in the region of Limousin, département of
Corrèze, for a total length of about 300 miles.
It combines with the Garonne River and enters the Gironde estuary near Bordeaux. The longest tributary of the Dordogne is the Isle River, which joins it at Libourne, the head of navigation for seagoing ships.
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The History of Auvergne
The region of Auvergne consists of the former province of Auvergne.
The province took its name from the Arverni, a Gallic tribe whose leader,
Vercingetorix, was defeated by Roman general Gaius Julius Caesar.
The Gallic capital, called Gergovia, was destroyed, by the Romans, and replaced by the colony of Augusto-Nemetum, which later became Clermont.
Auvergne was included in the newly conquered land, in southwestern France, that Caesar called Aquitaine.
In 475, the Romans ceded Auvergne to the Visigoths.
In 507, Auvergne was conquered by the Frankish king
In about 928, Auvergne became the possession of the Count of Toulouse; It was subsequently ruled by the Count of Poitiers.
In the 12th century, Auvergne became a possession of the English king,
Henry II, upon his marriage to
Eleanor of Aquitaine, heiress of Auvergne.
From the end of the 13th century, the area of Auvergne, bounded by the Allier and Coux Rivers, became known as the Dauphiné d’Auvergne.
John II of France made the area known as the
Terre d’Auvergn into a duchy for his son Jean, Duke de Berry.
the end of
the Hundred Years’ War, in 1453, the English had been driven from France.
In 1503, when Charles, the Constable of France became the Duke de Bourbon, he united the Dauphiné and the duchy.
After Charles’ treason, the domains were confiscated by
King Francis I and given, for life, to his mother, Louise of Savoy.
The domain was annexed to the kingdom of France in 1532.
The domains, which constituted the Bourbonnais province, became known as the Countship of Auvergne.
In 1551, Catherine de Médicis took possession of the Countship and of Clermont.
Once again, in 1615, after the death of Catherine’s daughter Margaret of Valois, this domain was annexed to the Kingdom of France.
In 1790, the modern départements of
Cantal, and part of
Haute-Loire were formed from the old province of Auvergne.
In the same year, the département of
Allier was formed from what used to be the province of Bourbonnais and part of the old province of Auvergne.
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The Architecture of Auvergne
The French Romanesque schools of architecture are characterized by a varied use of vaulted styles.
The introduction of vaulting led to the general use of heavy walls and piers in place of the light walls and columns that had sufficed to support wooden roofs. In the mature Romanesque style, especially as practiced in France, the use of massive walls and piers, as supports for the heavy stone vaults, resulted in a typical building plan that treated the entire structure as a complex composed of smaller units.
These units, called bays, are the square or rectangular spaces enclosed by groin vaults; late Romanesque architects tended to use these bays as their basic building unit, and these separate rectangular bays became a characteristic and distinguishing feature of the Romanesque style.
Massiveness in stone structures is another major characteristic of Romanesque architecture. The nave, in Romanesque churches, was usually made higher and narrower than in earlier structures.
This was done to make room for windows, called clerestory windows, in the sidewalls below the vault.
The doors and windows were usually capped by round arches or slightly pointed arches. These openings were generally small and were decorated with moldings, carvings, and sculptures that became increasingly rich and varied as the Romanesque period drew to a close.
In the region of
Aquitaine, in southwestern France, architects adopted the Byzantine structural principle.
This consisted of vaulting the nave with a series of domes.
Illustrations of this approach can be seen in the Church of Saint Front, at Périgueux (begun 1120), and in the 12th century cathedrals at
Characteristic features include pointed domes and facades decorated with tiers of wall arcades filled with sculpture.
The school of ecclesiastical architecture that developed in the Auvergne region, in south-central France, represents a provincial development of the Bourguignon school. It is important for its varied experiments in solving the vaulting problems in the various pilgrimage churches. The result of these experiments was the ensuing chevet design.
The chevet design used a long choir with side aisles and a semicircular aisle flowing behind the sanctuary.
The semicircular aisle, called an arcaded ambulatory, had a number of small chapels radiating from it.
Early examples of this approach can be found in the Church of Saint Sernin and the Church of Saint Martin.
The former was built in the period 1080-1120 at
Toulouse, in the region and former province of Languedoc in southern France.
The latter, the Church of Saint Martin, was constructed from 1000-1150 at
Tours. This design approach was later adopted, and elaborated upon, in the Gothic style.
Saint Sernin is also notable for its imposing central tower.
The tower was finished well after the church itself.
It was built with a barrel-vaulted nave, symmetrical composition, and rich details.
Large-scale stone sculptural decorations became common throughout Europe in the 12th century. In the French Romanesque churches of
Aquitaine, extensive sculptures were employed on the facades.
It is not uncommon to see statues on engaged columns that give visual emphasis to the vertical supporting members.
Notable examples of French architectural sculpture, which are almost in their original state, can be seen at the cathedrals in Toulouse, Autun, and
Poitiers. Their composition and subject matter are the direct precursors of the Gothic masterpieces at
Amiens, and other French Gothic cathedrals.
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The chateaux at Bourbon-l'Archambault, in the département of
Allier, was the seat of the first Bourbon lords.
There are other medieval buildings that are worth seeing at Ébreuil, Gannat, Huriel, Moulins, Saint-Menoux, Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, Souvigny, Veauce and Ygrande.
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The Gastronomy of Auvergne
The Wine of Auvergne
The Cheese of Auvergne
Two cheeses, Fourme and Bleu d'Auvergne come from the département of Cantal.
The milk of 30 cows goes into the making of one 50 kilo wheel of cheese.
The Cuisine of Auvergne
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The Economic Activity of Auvergne
The Agriculture of Auvergne
Animal husbandry predominates in the mountains.
The rich plains of Limagnes, in
Puy-de-Dôme, produce wheat, and other cereals, cattle and fodder.
Viticulture is in decline and tree farming is increasing.
Small farms in the crystalline massif of the east produce rye.
Fodder and potatoes are grown in the lowlands of
Cantal. Uranium is mined in the northwest corner of Cantal near Bort-les-Orgues. Some of the many thermal springs, notably those of Chaudes-Aigues, are developed as spas; some of the spas have begun to add facilities for winter sports.
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The Industry of Auvergne
Traditional artisanship has largely disappeared in Auvergne, although cutlery continues to be produced in the town of Thiers in the département of Puy-de-Dôme. Lace making still, but barely survives in
Manufacturing is concentrated in Clermont-Ferrand, in the département of Puy-de-Dôme, which emerged as a major industrial center in the late 19th century, and in the département of
Allier, which has benefited from its proximity to Paris.
The Michelin plant in Clermont-Ferrand is France's largest producer of tires; the industrial complex of Montluçon-Commentry, in Allier, also manufactures tires as well as computers and machines.
Spas are also important to the economic life of this region: the thermal springs of
Vichy, Néris-les-Bains, Bourbon-l'Archambault, Royat, and many other towns draw large numbers of visitors to the region.
Le Puy-en-Velay, in the département of
Haute-Loire, is a place of pilgrimage and a center for tourists who visit the département for its magnificent landscape, in which churches and castles crown volcanic peaks and hills.
Tourism is important to the département of Puy-le-Dôme. The mountain spas and winter sports resorts attract numerous visitors. Puy-de-Dôme is noted for its Romanesque churches, including those of Issoire, Saint-Nectaire, and Orcival and the Cathedral of
Clermont-Ferrand. The basalt Gergovia Plateau south of Clermont-Ferrand, where in 52 BC the Gallic chieftain
Vercingetorix repulsed Julius Caesar during the
Roman conquest of Gaul, is an historic monument.
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