town century cathedral mont
PUY, LE, or more precisely LE PUY EN VELAY, chief town of the department of Haute-Loire, France, 352 miles from Paris by rail and 270 in a direct line, rises in the form of an amphitheatre at a height of 2050 feet above sea-level upon Mont Anis, the hill that divides the left bank of the Dolezon from the right bank of the Borne (a rapid stream which joins the Loire 3 miles below). From the new town, which lies east and west in the valley of the Dolezon, the traveller ascends the old feudal and ecclesiastical town through narrow steep streets, paved with slippery pebbles of lava, to the cathedral commanded by the fantastic pinnacle of Mont Corneille. Mont Corneille, which is 433 feet above the Place de Breuil (in the lower town), is a steep rock of volcanic breccia, surmounted by a colossal iron statue of the Virgin (53 feet high, standing on a pedestal 23 feet high), cast after a model by Bonassieux out of 213 guns taken at Sebastopol. The monument is composed of eighty parts fitted together and weighs 98/ tons. Another statue, that of a bishop of Puy, also sculptured by Bonassieux, faces that of the Virgin. From the platform of Mont Corneille a magnificent panoramic view is obtained of the town, and of the volcanic mountains, which make this region one of the most interesting parts of France. The Romanesque cathedral (Notre Dame), dating from the 6th to the 12th century, has a particoloured façade of white sandstone and black volcanic breccia, which is reached by a flight of sixty steps, and consists of three tiers, the lowest composed of three high arcades opening into the porch beneath the nave of the church; above are three windows lighting the nave ; and these in turn are surmounted by three gables, two of which, those to the right and the left, are of open work. Two side porches lead to the cathedral by the transept. The bell-tower (184 feet), which rises behind the choir in seven stories, is one of the most beautiful examples of the Romanesque transition period. The bays of the nave are covered in by octagonal cupolas ; the central cupola forms a lantern. The choir and transepts are barrel-vaulted. The cathedral has mural paintings of the 12th and 13th centuries, an open-work Romanesque screen surrounding the sanctuary, and a manuscript Bible belonging to the 9th century. The cloister, to the north of the choir, is striking owing to its variously-coloured materials and elegant shafts; Viollet le Due considers one of its galleries to belong to the oldest known type of cathedral cloister (8th and 9th centuries). Connected with the cloister are remains of fortifications of the 13th century, by which it was separated from the rest of the city. Near the cathedral the baptistery of St John (4th century), built on the foundations of a Roman building, is surrounded by walls and numerous remains of the period, partly uncovered by recent excavations. The church of St Lawrence (14th century) contains the remains of Du Guesclin. Le Puy possesses fragmentary remains of its old line of fortifications, among them a machicolated tower, which has been restored, and a few curious old houses dating from the 12th to the 17th century. Of the modern monuments the statue of La Fayette and a fountain in the Place de Breuil, executed in marble, bronze, and syenite, may be specially mentioned. The museum, named after Crozatier, a native metal-worker to whose munificence it principally owes its existence, contains antiquities, engravings, a collection of lace, and ethnographical and natural history collections. Among the curiosities of Puy should be noted the church of St Michel d'Aiguille, beside the gate of the town, perched on an isolated rock like Mont Corneille, the top of which is reached by a staircase of 271 steps. The church dates from the end of the 10th century and its chancel is still older. The steeple is of the same type as that of the cathedral. Three miles from Puy are the ruins of the Château de Polignac, one of the most important feudal strongholds of France. The population of Puy in 1881 was 18,567. The trade is chiefly in cattle, woollens, grains, and vegetables. The principal manufacture is that of laces and blondes (in woollen, linen, cotton, silk, gold, and silver threads), which is carried on by 130,000 workwomen in the neighbourhood, the yearly turnover being £1,000,000. The town is connected by rail with St Etienne and Lyons, and also with Brioude on the line from Clermont-Ferrand to Nimes.
It is not known whether Le Puy existed previously to the Roman invasion. Towards the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th century it became the capital of the country of the Vellavi, at which period the bishopric, originally at Revession, now St Paulien, was transferred hither. Gregory of Tours speaks of it by the name of Anicium, because a chapel " ad Deum " had been built on the mountain, whence the name of Mont Adidon or Ani, which it still retains. In the 10th century it was called Podium Sanctm Maria, whence Le Puy. In the Middle Ages there was a double enclosure, one for the cloister, the other for the town. The sanctuary of Notre Dame was much frequented by pilgrims, and the city grew famous and populous. Rivalries between the bishops (who held directly of the see of Rome) and the lords of Polignac, revolts of the town against the royal authority, and the encroachments of the feudal superiors on municipal prerogatives often disturbed the quiet of the town. The Saracens in the 8th century, the Routiers in the 12th, the English in the 14th, the Burgundians in the 15th, successively ravaged the neighbourhood. Le Puy sent the flower of its chivalry to the crusades in 1096, and Raymond d'Aiguille, called d'Agiles, one of its sons, was their historian. Many councils and various assemblies of the states of Languedoc met within its walls ; popes and sovereigns, among the latter Charlemagne and Francis I., visited its sanctuary. Pestilence and the religious wars put an end to its prosperity. Long occupied by the Leaguers, it did not submit to Henry IV. until many years after his accession.