The 12 most beautiful historical sites within an hour

1. The castle of la Bâtie d'Urfé

La Bâtie d'Urfé in Saint-Etienne-le-Molard, in the Loire, is one of the most astonishing French castles. This magnificent residence, classified as a historical monument and labeled Maison des illustres, was initially a medieval stronghold. It was transformed in the 16th century into a splendid Italian-style Renaissance castle that looks like a Palazzo. It is a building full of mysteries because the owners in the Middle Ages were so powerful that they embellished the rooms and the architecture of what was only a country fortified house. The castle of la Bâtie (or Bastie) d'Urfé was the family residence of Honoré d'Urfé, author of the best-selling novel of the 17th century and the first French novel: L'Astrée. Five thousand pages of loves, disappointments, jealousies, loyalties and infidelities, but also wars, between shepherds and shepherdesses in the Gallic Forez of the 5th century. The castle retraces through beautiful tapestries the story of the beautiful "Celadon" hero of this story. The medieval paintings are a must see. Not to be missed is the splendid cave whose floors, ceilings and walls are covered with colored sands and shells. This 16th century rockwork grotto, perfectly preserved and restored, is unique in France. It is a real rarity and very well preserved. The chapel with its superb stuccoed ceilings is a must see. At the end of the visit you can contemplate a garden designed in the 16th century with its boxwoods and statues, and in the middle the lovers' fountain. A real treasure ignored but not abandoned. It is a beautiful historical and artistic discovery of these places.

Take a guided tour, the quality and erudition of the guides' comments will take you on a journey to the heart of the Renaissance.

1061 Route de la Bâtie d'Urfé 42130 Saint-Étienne-le-Molard

Tel : 04 77 97 54 68

2. Charlieu : the Benedictine abbey of Charlieu, the convent of the Cordeliers followed by the abbey of la Bénisson-Dieu

Charlieu is one of the 100 most beautiful detours in France. Charlieu is a small town of character with colorful houses, a lively town, a rich history and monuments that cannot be ignored. Defense towers, mansions made of cut stone, houses with half-timbered facades, and narrow streets lined with numerous shops give the historic district a lot of charm. But the most interesting is the Benedictine abbey. Founded around 875, the Benedictine abbey of Charlieu was attached in 932 to the great Burgundian abbey of Cluny. This monastic complex has unique architectural qualities. Excavations have revealed three churches built on the same site in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries.

The abbey is famous for its sculpted tympanums: the one of Charlieu is the oldest of the Romanesque art in France. It dates from around 1100 and is inspired by the book of the Apocalypse. The cloister, from the end of the 15th century, opens onto the chapter house (15th century, remarkable lectern) through a Romanesque colonnade. From there, we reach the chapel of the prior (end of the 15th century), then the courtyard of the Hotel du prieur (beginning of the 16th century). In short, impressive, majestic, full of history, this abbey is superb! If you have the time, the guided tour is really useful to properly identify the succession of the different ecclesiastical constructions of the site and to appreciate in detail the quality of the sculpted decoration.

After visiting the abbey, take the opportunity to discover the beautiful silk museum in the former premises of the city hospital as well as the hospital museum which is located in another wing of the hospital. You will love this last museum which reconstitutes the hospital as it was before 1950 with the help of material kept by the sisters, in the old Hôtel-Dieu, with in addition an olfactory atmosphere specific to each room (you know well the expression "it smells like a hospital" don't you?). Sick room, operating room, linen room, nursery and a somewhat magical room: the apothecary!

Another place not to be missed is the Cordeliers convent. Located only 700 meters from the abbey of Charlieu (10 minutes on foot), this former Franciscan convent is now converted into a place of culture. Founded around 1280 by a community of Franciscan friars, the convent had an eventful history. Destroyed in 1360, it was rebuilt at the end of the 14th century. Occupied by Friars Minor Conventual. It was closed in 1792 and sold as national property. Only the cloister, the church and the "library" of the religious remain today. The large cloister, in the radiant Gothic style, is very well decorated. Its northern gallery in particular is decorated with figurative capitals representing with humor the vices and the virtues. The adjoining church (end of the 14th century) is remarkable for its visible oak frame, dating from the end of the 17th century, and its wall paintings from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. The convent has preserved its main architectural elements, which the visitor can discover freely with a document or on a guided tour. The most incredible story is linked to the cloister. Integrated into a house and transformed into a pleasure garden at the end of the 19th century, it was sold in 1910 to a Parisian antique dealer and partly dismantled to decorate the tennis court of an American billionaire. The intervention of the Friends of the Arts Society and a classification in extremis as a historical monument finally saved it. A very nice nugget to discover.

For more information: https: //

If you still have time, do not hesitate to continue your visit by going to theCistercian abbey of La Bénisson-Dieu. A few kilometers from Charlieu, the abbey dominates the whole village of La Bénisson-Dieu with its huge varnished roof in the shape of an overturned boat. Its proportions are imposing even if today only a tiny part of the original building remains. The plans found are eloquent, but the torments of wars and the ravages of time have reduced the majesty of the place. Indeed, in 1138, Albéric, sent by Saint-Bernard, founded the Cistercian abbey of Notre Dame de La Bénédiction de Dieu, whose name will be deformed in the course of the ages in "La Bénisson-Dieu". The primitive abbey church dates from the end of the 12th century. At the transition between the Romanesque and Gothic arts, it is a typically Cistercian building : stained glass windows in grisaille, sober lines magnified by the blond limestone. At the end of the 15th century, Abbot Pierre de la Fin carried out considerable work: addition of a 51-meter high bell tower, a roof made of polychrome glazed tiles... After the troubles of the Wars of Religion, the abbey was devastated. In 1611, the monks exchanged with the nuns of Mégemont, in Auvergne, whose abbess, Mme de Nérestang, restored the monastery and added a baroque chapel dedicated to the Virgin to the church. The abbey closed at the time of the Revolution and its buildings were used as a stone quarry. Dominated by its imposing bell tower, only the church remains, although the choir and the transept have been amputated. One must linger on a chapel closed by a wooden portico and entirely painted. Not to be missed!

Parvis Albéric
42720 La Bénisson-Dieu!/fiche/abbaye-cistercienne-91233

3. The city of Lyon

Lyon was voted the best weekend destination in Europe in 2016 at the World Travels Awards ceremony. With nearly 6 million visitors per year, the number of visitors to the city of lights has been growing steadily, especially since the historic site of Lyon was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.

Its various assets, such as its human size, its heritage and its culture make Lyon a fashionable tourist city.

Located between the Saône and the Rhône, Lyon was the capital of the Gauls, of silk and of printing. Today, it is easily awarded the title of capital of gastronomy and major metropolis of Europe. Its cultural life is extremely rich, which the inhabitants as well as the visitors do not fail to appreciate. Lyon is also the city of small unusual passages, the traboules, which one crosses to discover the city. Five hundred hectares of the city are listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Its historical heritage can be found at the Place des Terreaux, the Palais de la Bourse, the pink tower or the Gallo-Roman Theater. Its most modern district, still undergoing restructuring, is the Confluent district. Thus, its different districts (Gallo-Roman, medieval, classical, modern, ...) offer a guaranteed enchantment.
What you absolutely must do in Lyon for a day:

  • Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière. Completed in 1896, the basilica is an emblematic monument of the city and a must-see when you want to visit Lyon! Overlooking the city, it includes a very rich interior and exterior decoration, with in particular a cycle of mosaics representing the history of the Virgin in the history of France and the Church. From the esplanade of the basilica, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city! Not far from there is one of the most beautiful archeological sites of France which shelters the Gallo-Roman amphitheaters which were formerly used for various spectacles: the museum of the Gallo-Roman Civilization of Lyon.
  • The Old Lyon. This district is one of the largest Renaissance-style ensembles in Europe. Take a leisurely stroll and don't hesitate to look up to admire all this Renaissance architecture. You will discover at the bottom of some buildings the traboules, small passages between two streets, which allow you to discover small architectural nuggets of the Renaissance like spiral staircases, galleries... The longest traboule of Lyon is the traboule of the Pink Tower.
  • The Presqu'île (1st and 2nd arrondissement) starting with the museum of fabrics and decorative arts, then going up to Place Bellecour, and continuing towards the Hôtel de Ville. Place des Terreaux is home to the city's beautiful Fine Arts Museum which is well worth a visit.
  • The Parc de la Tête d'Or is the largest public park in France! Inaugurated in 1857, it is today the real green lung of the city which extends over nearly 117 hectares inside Lyon. Very popular with the people of Lyon, the park is a wonderful place to relax, meet up with friends and have a picnic. The zoological garden of Lyon is also located in the heart of the park. Free of charge, it is home to many preserved species, such as adorable red pandas, and also lions - the city's emblem!
  • Lyon's gastronomy. Renowned throughout France, Lyon's gastronomic specialties will please your taste buds. From the typical bouchons lyonnais to the quenelles, through its famous praline pie and bugnes, you will definitely enjoy it!
  • The Confluences museum. Located on the extreme tip of the peninsula, this museum is an architectural feat which is really worth a visit if you have the opportunity to visit Lyon. Heir to the collections of the Guimet museum of natural history in Lyon, it houses works that trace the origin of man and dinosaurs to the farthest reaches of the universe through the history of societies and civilizations.

4. The city of Le Puy en Velay

The prefecture of the Haute-Loire is a unique city. The historic capital of Velay in the southeastern part of the Massif Central, the city is famous for its manufacture of Le Puy lace, the cultivation of Le Puy green lentils and the production of Velay verbena. It is also known for being the departure point of the Via Podiensis, one of the four French Compostela routes. Frequented by pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela for centuries, it is full of historical monuments and outstanding religious buildings.

Its panorama is recognizable between thousand, with the cathedral, the virgin and the rock Saint-Michel. You will be charmed by its cobbled streets, its craft stores and its restaurants with traditional flavors. A stroll through the old town will take you through several centuries of architecture, from the St. John's Baptistery hidden behind the cathedral dating from the 10th century to the buildings of Pannessac Street whose facades allow you to explore the civil architecture of the 16th to 18th centuries.

What you must do in Le Puy for a day:

  • The Notre-Dame-du-Puy cathedral and its cloister. The cathedral is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site as part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. It is the starting point of the Way of Le Puy. The city of Le Puy is one of the oldest Marian sanctuaries (i.e. dedicated to the Virgin Mary): its appearance dates back to the 3rd century. A place of pilgrimage since the 5th century, when the first church was built, the Notre-Dame du Puy cathedral is much more recent, with a construction that was spread out over time: from the 11th century, additional bays were built to accommodate the pilgrims, who were always more numerous. It has become an important stage on the road to Santiago de Compostela, with the sanctuary of the Black Madonna, and also hosts one of the oldest jubilees, dating back to the 10th century. You can visit the cloister, one of the most beautiful Romanesque ensembles in Europe!
  • The statue of Notre-Dame-de-France. A must-see in Puy-en-Velay. This representation of the Virgin is erected on the Corneille rock, a stone cone of volcanic origin. It culminates at 757 meters above sea level and 132 meters above the city. The Virgin holds the baby Jesus in her arms to bless the city. The climb is easily accessible, with observation platforms, fountains and resting points along the way. Interpretive panels detail the history of the statue, made from the steel of 213 cannons taken from Russian troops in the Crimean War. You can climb inside the statue to access its crown, and enjoy a 360° view from the translucent dome.
  • The Hôtel-Dieu. This building was originally a hospital in charge of caring for pilgrims and the poorest patients. It is located right next to the cathedral and now houses the Art & Heritage Center of the Pays d'Art et d'Histoire. Its vocation is to tell the story of the construction and the development of Velay and the city of Le Puy as a high place of Christianity. Different themes are then approached like "Le Puy, sanctuary city", "Le Velay par monts et par vaux" or "Lace and know-how". Throughout the rooms, you will discover friezes, models, interactive maps and sound and smell atmospheres for a complete and immersive experience. Do not miss the hospital pharmacy, preserved in its 19th century state. You will be able to observe old medical instruments and a collection of medicinal plants.
  • The rock of Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe. Like the Virgin, the chapel of Saint-Michel d'Aiguilhe is built on an ancient volcano chimney. This rock, with a height of 82 meters, is one of the most amazing of the country. It also hosts a chapel dedicated to Saint-Michel since the year 961. The monument is registered on the first list of the Historical Monuments in 1840. You will then be subjugated by the way the building seems to be embedded in the rock itself. The staircase hanging on the cliff is a symbol of the ascent to the heavens and is in itself a highlight of the visit. From the top, you can enjoy an exceptional panorama of the city and the nearby statue of the Virgin.
  • The Crozatier museum. Charles Crozatier is a bronze founder born in Le Puy in 1794. He was responsible for the Napoleon of the Vendôme column and the equestrian statue of Louis XIV at the court of Versailles. At his death, he made numerous donations to the city of Le Puy, and the Crozatier museum was named in his honor. The museum has 4 galleries: History, Velay, Fine Arts and Sciences. They host local and international works, and highlight the history of the department, through its artists, its crafts but also its geology, its fauna and flora. During the exhibition on the sculptor Julien, in 2004, the Atalante statue of the castle was exhibited there for a whole season.
  • The "Puy de lumières" show. Since 2017, the summer nights of Puy-en-Velay light up the city center with a thousand lights. Light shows are projected on the main monuments of the city: it is an opportunity to rediscover its architectural wonders. Each show is unique and highlights a facet of the history and the territory. It is also possible to attend the whole show in one evening, during a beautiful night walk. You will leave from the Saint-Michel rock, pass by the cathedral, the Crozatier museum and continue to Brives-Charensac. In all, you will attend 9 light shows.
  • A restaurant in Le Puy. Impossible to visit Le Puy-en-Velay without sitting down at one of its numerous traditional restaurants. At the foot of the cathedral in the rue des tables, place du Plot or in one of the small streets, the best chefs will make you discover the cuisine of the Vellave region. The star of the plates is undoubtedly the green lentil of Velay, accompanied by country sausages or charcuterie. The flagship products of the region are also the fine-fat beef from Mézenc or the black lamb. The cheeses are also delicious, like the one with "artisous" whose manufacturing process will surely surprise you... To wash it all down, opt for a good Vellavia beer and a verbena green, in liqueur or in syrup.

For more information: https: //

5. The Charterhouse of Sainte Croix en Jarez and its village of character

Anexceptional heritage site, in the heart of the Pilat Regional Natural Park, in the middle of the mountains, come and discover the village of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez. It is the only example in France of a former monastery of the Carthusian order that became a village at an altitude of 955 meters. Saint-Croix-en-Jarez is located 10 km south of Rive de Gier, 20 km from Saint Etienne and 15 km from Givors in the first foothills of the Pilat Massif, in the heart of the regional natural park. Recognized as a "Most beautiful village of France" and recognized as a Village of Character in the Loire, the Charterhouse of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez is a unique site. Indeed, this village has the particularity of being installed in a former chartreuse refurbished. The Carthusian monastery dates from the 13th century and is wonderfully preserved, the only one in the world that has become a village in its entirety. Dominated by its magnificent feudal castle and its medieval church, the village of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez promises you a total immersion in the heart of one of the most prestigious monastic orders of all time.

The layout of the different buildings and living quarters of the monks has remained in place, giving the village its originality. Picturesque and magnificent, this ancient Carthusian monastery undeniably brings a medieval touch to the heritage of the Loire department, which is already rich in singularity and diversity. By means of agricultural and forestry exploitations, the Carthusian monks contributed to the development of agriculture in this mountainous and poor region which is the northern slope of the Pilat massif. It was Saint Bruno who founded the Carthusian order in 1084. Saint-Croix-en-Jarrez was founded in 1280 at the instigation of a young widow named Beatrice de la Tour, following a vision. The convent was home to a community of Carthusian monks for over 500 years. Occupied by the monks until the Revolution, the monastery and its properties were then sold as national property to the local peasants. In an extraordinary way, the villagers did not touch the buildings, making the cells their apartments, thus preserving a unique heritage.

The first courtyard was dedicated to commercial activity: the friars played a significant economic role at the time. The vaults, doors and gardens are authentic. The second courtyard opened onto the monks' cells.
Today, the village of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez and its walls are still marked by the exceptional history of the place. Come and discover its fortified walls and its particular alleys. Discover its local products and crafts. Taste in particular the famous liqueur of the Carthusian fathers.
The best way to discover the site is to take a guided tour. This visit offers the possibility to discover the former bakery of the Carthusian monks (today the information point), the kitchen and its monumental chimney of 8 meters, the parish church with its sculpted stalls and the medieval church decorated with remarkable wall paintings of the 14th century.

Chartreuse de Sainte-Croix Le Bourg, 42800 Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez, Loire

6. The Le Corbusier city in Firminy

The Le Corbusier site in Firminy, known as the second largest after Chandigarh in India, is a major complex, a vector of cultural, economic and tourist attraction, an invaluable asset for the region.

The first Le Corbusier site in Europe, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, this site located in Firminy-Vert is composed of the Maison de la culture, the stadium, the church and the housing unit. Depending on the period, you can visit a sample apartment.

Firminy-Vert is intended to be a modern ideal city, radically different from the old "Firminy la Noire" and its unsanitary workers' housing. Commissioned in 1954 by Eugène Claudius-Petit, mayor of Firminy and former Minister of Reconstruction and Urban Planning, it is based on the Athens Charter of 1933, which defines the four functions of the city: living, working, circulating, recreating. As for the buildings, they take up the five foundations of the new architecture advocated by Le Corbusier: the pilotis, the roof terrace, the independent framework, the free facade and the free plan. Finally, a great deal of space is given to the sun, to space and to greenery.
Le Corbusier imagined for Firminy a center for the recreation of body and mind, with facilities on the scale of the city. He intended to bring culture, sports and spirituality into the heart of the inhabitants' daily lives. The Maison de la Culture, the stadium, the swimming pool (designed by André Wogensky) and the Saint-Pierre church form a modern acropolis.

The Maison de la Culture is the first building built by Le Corbusier and the only one he saw completed during his lifetime in 1965. It is also his only European achievement for this type of program, hosting shows, exhibitions and musical and artistic teaching activities. The openings, the geometric lines and the four colors specific to the architect give rhythm to the interior spaces as well as to the sloping facade which responds to the covering of the terraces in front. Leaning on the rock of the old quarry left bare, the House of Culture overlooks the stadium, completed in 1968.

The Saint-Pierre church, inaugurated in 2006, is one of the last Le Corbusier buildings in the world. At his death, the architect left a preliminary project. The construction site, begun in 1970, was abandoned at the end of the decade, and it was not until Saint-Etienne Métropole became the project owner in 2002 that it was completed. A pyramid with a square base evolving into a truncated cone, the Saint-Pierre church is the vertical element that completes the inscription of the site in the landscape. As is often the case in Le Corbusier's work, the architecture of the building is conceived as an "architectural promenade" and can be seen from several locations. Inside, the concrete shell houses an interpretation center, exhibition and seminar spaces, an auditorium, but also a place of worship (unconsecrated) in the nave, where the play of light is revealed at all times of the day. And it is in the morning that the show is the most impressive with the sun entering through the constellation of Orion reproduced on one of the walls, forming delicate lines on the other walls!
To house the inhabitants, Le Corbusier composed a "vertical garden city", surrounded by a traffic network where pedestrians and motorists do not cross! With a minimal footprint for the buildings, he left plenty of room for green spaces. Faced with a shortage of housing, three housing units were to be built to complete the urbanization of the city. Only one of them will finally be built and Le Corbusier will have just enough time to lay the first stone in 1965. André Wogensky (who imposed his own colors) and Fernand Gardien were later responsible for the project. The pilotis, the facades, the school and the roof terrace were classified as Historic Monuments in 1993.

The housing unit is conceived as a village with dwellings and what Le Corbusier calls "extensions of the dwelling": stores, a school and a roof terrace that serves as a village square. Individual and collective spaces are side by side. To make the "ordinary man happy", the habitat is standardized on the scale of the Modulor (a human-sized unit of measurement created by Le Corbusier), the furniture is reduced to its functional role, and the décor is minimalist. Seven "streets" serve three floors each: one enters the duplex apartments by the bottom floor for some and by the top floor for others (see model above). The latter have an east-west crossing, so that sunlight penetrates them all day long. The first inhabitants moved into the unit in 1967 and today, 1000 people still live there.

A site not to be missed, whether you appreciate Le Corbusier's architecture or not!
For more information:

7. Saint Etienne and its museum of art and industry and/or its museum of modern art

The Museum of Art and Industry is an essential place to visit for anyone who wants to discover Saint-Etienne. Its mission is to promote Saint-Etienne's industrial heritage while opening up to creativity: a successful alliance between art and industry, the beautiful and the useful, form and function, innovation and uses. Renovated in 2001 by Jean-Michel Wilmotte and awarded the Musée de France label, it has three technical collections of national and international scope: weapons, cycles and ribbons. These collections are the essential link between the past, present and future of the Saint-Etienne region. Through its contents, the Museum of Art and Industry offers a contemporary look at the art and design industries of everyday life.

  • Weapons: 6000 hunting and war weapons, the 2nd largest public collection in France.
    From armor to rifles to sabers, the Museum of Art and Industry brings together military and civilian design and artistic and technical masterpieces dedicated to hunting. From artisanal workshops to large factories, inventions, systems, plastic creation and contemporary art celebrate know-how and new technologies.
  • The ribbons: 1st world collection.
    An atmosphere, a smell, the beating of the trades, the pleasure of the eye... An impressive collection that combines artistic creation with the mechanical genius of men. Imagination, fashion and new technologies are all part of this collection. Unique pieces take us from the silk routes to the new textiles, from creation to production, from ancient fashions to fashion design with an exceptional collection of haute couture dresses made of ribbons.
  • cycles : 1st French public collection.
    A true technical museum of bicycles, the Museum of Art and Industry gives man his real place. In 1886, the first French bicycle was manufactured in Saint-Etienne, the founding act of an industry that would become internationally renowned thanks to the products of Manufrance, Ravat and Automoto. From the ancestors of the bicycle to the perfected sport and touring bikes, the "little queen" inspired inventors and advertisers. The "Superb Swallow" produced by the Manufacture Française d'Armes et Cycles, the first French bicycle from Saint-Etienne, is in dialogue with the bicycle of the 21st century.
  • Models for industrial art.
    In addition to these three main collections, the museum has an important collection of historical and decorative art objects that inspired the ribbon designers and arms engravers working in the art industries of Saint-Etienne. Ceramics, enamels, ivory, miniatures, drawings, silverware, medals and coins testify to the museum's pivotal role in the link between art and industry.

You will come away surprised and amazed by this fascinating visit!
For more information: http: //
Museum of Art and Industry
2, place Louis Comte 42026 Saint Etienne
+33 (0)4 77 49 73 00

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Saint Etienne Metropole houses one of the largest collections of 20th and 21st century art in France. The building was designed by the architect Didier Guichard in 1987 and offers a vast and luminous exhibition space of about 3000 m2. It presents a wide range of contemporary art exhibitions and a selection of works from its collection. The collection includes works from many artistic currents such as minimal art, conceptualism, pop art, Arte Povera, expressionism, Viennese actionism, neo-expressionism, new realism... and includes more than 20,000 works by prestigious contemporary artists. The collection also includes masterpieces by masters of modern art. The collection contains approximately 2,300 photographs illustrating the history of photography. In addition, over 2,000 objects constitute one of the rarest collections of industrial drawings in France.
Unfortunately, this collection is only rarely exhibited, in favor of temporary exhibitions. So take a good look at the program before going there to avoid disappointment!

For more information: https: //

Rue Fernand Léger
42270 Saint-Priest-en-Jarez

Tel : 04 77 79 52 52

8. The city of Montbrison and its Diana hall (followed by a visit to the village of Champdieu and its castle of Vaugirard)

The history of Montbrison is closely linked to that of the Counts of Forez, who made it their capital in the 12th century when Forez became an independent territory, after decades of conflicts with the County of Lyon. During the following centuries, the city will know a period of prosperity and splendor, which will last until the Industrial Revolution and the rise of Saint-Etienne. From the golden age until the 14th century, under the House of Albion (the descendants of Guy II who caused the split with the Archbishop of Lyon), or afterwards when the county passed into the hands of the Bourbon and then the Kingdom of France, the traces of this rich past can be found everywhere in the old town.

  • The collegiate church of Notre-Dame-d'Espérance. Among the remarkable buildings inherited from the Albion family is the collegiate church of Notre-Dame-d'Espérance, founded in 1223 by Guy IV and whose construction lasted nearly two and a half centuries. As much a testimony of piety as a symbol of the power of the dynasty of Guy II, the church is of Gothic architecture, a style still quite new at the time. In spite of the length of the building site, there is a beautiful harmony in the lines of the building. Unfortunately, the interior has suffered many outrages, first during the Wars of Religion but especially with the French Revolution. In fact, the majority of the decorative elements and furniture date from the 19th century, when a major restoration campaign was undertaken: organ, high altar, pulpit, stained glass windows, etc. The tomb of Guy IV and his recumbent, the stone of honor, as well as a painting dating from the 13th century and discovered during the 1970's restorations, still remain from a period contemporary to the construction of the church.
  • Rare books, sublime libraries, coats of arms by the hundreds on the ceiling, wood with a patina of the centuries, noble light... The space of this heraldic room of the Diana is a masterpiece of French sophistication. It is said that it is the memory of Forez. Small treasure of Montbrison, it is a unique site in France. It hosts a library of 30 000 books. The Heraldic Room of the Diana would have been fitted out around the year 1300 by the Count Jean I of Forez. The States of the province met in this high place of its medieval history. François I was welcomed there in 1536. But its particularity is its incredible ceiling painted with 1 728 coats of arms exactly, divided into 48 bands inside which each coat of arms is repeated 36 times. In addition, a frieze runs the length of the room, where we find other coats of arms accompanied by fantastic animals. These coats of arms represent all (except those of the king of France) feudal noble families, allies or friends of the counts of Forez. Over the centuries, the Diana has had many functions (meeting place for the Forézienne nobility or for the enthronement of the canons of the collegiate church, occasionally a theater) before being hit hard by the French Revolution. Its transformation into a hay barn is perhaps what allowed the decor to survive this troubled period. The city of Montbrison acquired it by subscription from the Foréziens in 1862, at the instigation of the Duke of Persigny, minister of Napoleon III and Forézien. She restored it to install the Historical and Archeological Society of Forez, which took the name of it. It is from this period that the neo-gothic facades, the woodwork of the libraries as well as the chimney, reconstitution of the destroyed one, date.

Heraldic Room of the Diana
7 rue Florimond Robertet
42600 Montbrison
Visits (3€): Tuesday and Friday 2-5pm / Wednesday and Saturday 9am-12pm 2-5pm

  • The castle of Vaugirard. This castle is an elegant residence built at the beginning of the XVIIth century by Jacques Girard le Jeune, outside Montbrison (currently in the commune of Champdieu). Ennobled in 1609 by Henri IV, he decided to offer himself a secondary residence in the countryside, the construction of which was possible thanks to the fortune of his wife, Catherine Navergnon. Entirely built in adobe (i.e., raw earth covered with plaster), its symmetrical plan, typical of classical architecture, has hardly been altered over the centuries, despite the successive owners (only a fire amputated the roof of the left building and one of the two round towers). Still inhabited, the castle is open to the public in summer. In addition to the remarkable exterior appearance, and the superb perspective formed by the avenue of oak trees (replanted after the 1999 storm) that leads to the castle, the interior is not to be outdone. If many changes were made in the 19th century, under the Lescure family, we still find original elements of decoration in two of the rooms on the first floor, on which the visit focuses: the ceremonial room, also called the knights' room, and a bedroom, called Henry IV's room. In the first room, the French ceiling and the painted wooden fireplace are original; but not the horsemen on the walls, inspired by Henri de Gissey's engravings, representing the great carousel given by Louis XIV in 1662 to celebrate the birth of the Dauphin. The fleur-de-lis on the mantelpiece, a royal emblem, attest to the late redecoration of the room.

    Castle of Vaugirard
    Place called Vaugirard
    Route de Chalain-d'Uzore (D5)
    42600 Champdieu
    Visit from June 1st to September 30th;

information at 04 77 58 33 88

9. The village of character of Saint Bonnet le Château and its collegiate church

Located on the heights of the department, on the border with the Auvergne, Saint-Bonnet-le-Château is one of the department's most important places thanks to its impressive collegiate church. Politically important in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the town still preserves beautiful traces of this glorious past. You should not hesitate to explore the alleys to find beautiful private mansions. This village of character and former county castle is perched at an altitude of 870 meters on the Haut Forez plateau. The city owes its name to a bishop from Clermont-Ferrand and to its 12th century castle which has now disappeared. In the heart of the city, the gothic collegiate church, classified as a historical monument in 1922, is remarkable for its size and sobriety; it houses about twenty mummified bodies preserved thanks to the alum and arsenic in the soil. Its lower chapel is known for its exceptional 15th century wall paintings. The bell tower offers a spectacular view of the Forez plain, from the Massif Central to the Pilat. The presence of a college of priests is at the origin of the construction of the library of the XVIIIth century which still shelters 2200 volumes. It has one of the richest collections of ancient religious ornaments in the department. At the bend of the medieval lanes and of its historical district you will be able to admire a breathtaking panorama. Saint-Bonnet-le-Château is also the world capital of petanque ball thanks to the Obut brand.

Guided tour of the Collegiate Church from Wednesday to Sunday.
Town hall of Saint-Bonnet-le-Château

Tourism department

Tel : 04 77 50 52 42

10. The village of Pommiers-en-Forez and its priory

Located in the north of the Forez plain, the Pommiers Priory is one of the four Loire tourist sites maintained by the General Council. Originally, the site was occupied by a Gallo-Roman villa which gave it a Latin name, Pommaria, "orchard", or Pomerium meaning the limit drawn by a plough furrow during a foundation rite. In the 9th century, a community of Benedictine monks from the abbey of Nantua settled there. A century later, the community came under the influence of the abbey of Cluny and remained so until the Revolution when the priory was confiscated as "national property". The priory church "Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul" was built in the 11th century and enlarged in the 12th century. The parish church of Saint-Julien (de Brioude) dates from the 10th century. Ramparts were built to protect the village during the Hundred Years War. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the priory became the property of the Bourganel family before being transformed into a rest home for priests. Today, it is a place of visits but also of concerts and exhibitions. Classified as a historical monument in 1983, it is now the property of the Department of the Loire. The guided tour allows you to access the frames which are remarkable.

Pommier-en-Forez Priory Vieux Village, Le Bourg, 42260 Pommiers

Tel : 04 77 65 46 22

Every day from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 7pm

11. The glass factory of Saint Just and the stained glass workshop

Founded in 1826, the St Just glassworks perpetuates the ancestral technique of glass blowing by mouth. Every morning, the molten glass is transformed into a sleeve under the effect of the blast before becoming a plate. True French know-how of master glassmakers, it is unfortunately the last French workshop, and also one of the last three in Europe (the other two are in Poland and Germany). Blowing glass, sublimating this material, everything is beautiful. This factory, unique in France, has manufactured the windows of the Château de Versailles (replaced after the 1999 storm!), but also the Louvre and the Louis Vuitton house in Shanghai. And as it is a historical factory, it has of course made all the windows of the castle of Saint Bonnet les Oules in 1876! The glassmakers of St Just have also worked for orders from great artists, such as Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, Georges Braque, Joan Miró! This visit will make you discover master glassmakers who are true artists with an extraordinary dexterity. A unique know-how, and exciting to discover and watch.
Visit organized by the Loire-Forez Tourist Office which proposes to continue with a visit of "L'Atelier du Vitrail de Denis Berger", stained glass artist every Tuesday at 8:30 am. Attention visit from 12 years! Dress code: long sleeves, pants, covered and closed shoes, no skirts or high heels!

Reservation on the website

After visiting the glass factory of Saint-Just, you will meet Denis Berger, stained glass artist. During a visit of his workshop, he will present his work as well as the techniques used for the creation and restoration of stained glass. Initially a student in cabinet making at the Compagnons du devoir, Denis Berger discovered glass in 1986. He did internships in the workshop to learn the art of stained glass, using his knowledge of drawing and ornamentation. He then registered with the Chamber of Artists and the Chamber of Trades, and set up his own business as a master glassmaker and stained glass artisan. During these meetings, he presents the ancestral work of stained glass with lead, but also more modern techniques such as fusing... Thus he reproduces or restores superb stained glass windows and glass objects, all more surprising than the others.
If you wish to know more about the techniques and the know-how necessary to the creation of stained glass, do not hesitate and let yourself be seduced by this visit, which mixes ancestral art and contemporary creations, for our great pleasure.

Reservation on the website

12. The convent "cabinet of curiosity

In 1749, at its origin, the convent was dedicated to the nuns of Sainte-Croix and then of Saint-Joseph. Its vocation was to welcome abandoned children from the region. Thanks to its apothecary, this country convent provided the necessary care to the inhabitants of the surrounding area.
After the law on the separation of church and state (1905), the future of the buildings became uncertain until they were finally abandoned in 1970.
Thirty years later, a new vocation was offered to this enchanting place. With exhibitions directed by the new owners, Daniel and Marie Pouget, the convent of Chazelles-sur-Lavieu opens its doors to the knowledge of the civilizations of the world and the popular beliefs of the Forez-Auvergne region.

During your visit you will have the chance to meet Daniel Pouget! The man is just great! In addition to the historical visit of the place you will discover his incredible life and you will discover his cabinet of curiosities. This visit with him is magical, as he tells us his fascinating travel stories! The first museographic pole concerns the black magic in Auvergne: healers, bewitches or unbewitched. We discover effigies and hearts pierced with pins, ropes of hanging, magicians' canes, flails and pitchforks to ward off the Evil One. At the time of Bonaparte, on the market of Montbrison, the shield "with the cow" was bought 30 francs: it was supposed to protect from the devil. The second pole is the result of his travels as an ethnologist: from the Amazon, to the heart of Africa, to the farthest reaches of Vanuatu, always immersed in the tribes. Friend of the Inuits, confidant of an Indian chief, he was offered shrunken heads, for example! He tells us stories, each one more frightening than the other... And what can we say about his collections of primitive and popular arts, which at least would have their place in a national museum? We only see a (small?) part of it, because every year the theme changes during exhibitions!
This visit is a trip to the end of the world!

Guided tours every Sunday at 3pm from May to October / Projections on request.

Le Couvent, Cabinet de Curiosités
49 chemin du Couvent
42560 Chazelles-Sur-Lavieu
04 77 76 59 29