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Clermont-Ferrand City Info

 

Clermont-Ferrand is the most popular tourist destination in France. It lies at the northern tip of the Massif Central encircled by the wooded and grassy volcanoes of the Monts-Dômes. It has been a typical smokestack industrial centre, the home base of Michelin tyres, which makes it a rather incongruous capital for the rustic, even backward province of the Auvergne.

As in many other traditional industrial towns hit by recession and changing global patterns of trade, Clermont has had to struggle to reorientate itself, turning to service industries and the creation of a university of 34,000 students. Nonetheless, many people have moved elsewhere in search of work, reducing the population by nearly a tenth. The town has changed physically, too, as many of the old factories have been demolished. Despite all of this, the old centre has a surprisingly hip and youthful feel, with pavement bars packed out in the evenings as the boutiques and galleries which have sprung up wind down for the day.

The town has changed physically, too, as many of the old factories have been demolished. Despite all of this, the old centre has a surprisingly hip and youthful feel, with pavement bars packed out in the evenings as the boutiques and galleries which have sprung up wind down for the day.

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Clermont Ferrand Tourist Attractions

L'Hôtel de Chazerat

This private mansion was constructed in the 1760's by Antoine de Chazerat in the classical style of the period. Built in Volvic stone it was originally whitewashed. The entrance is a large semi-circular portal giving onto an oval courtyard unique in France. Among the features to be admired are its large gilded hall, Corinthian columns, tympanums with plaster medallions, and two fine horse busts. During the French Revolution the mansion was sold to the town. It was returned to Antoine de Chazerat between 1806 and 1824 but later became the property of the bishopric before being transformed into a hospital.

Le mur des Sarrasins ( The Saracen Wall)

This is the largest surviving vestige of the era when Clermont was called Augustonemetum. It stands in the inner courtyard of a building in Rue Rameau, opposite the Nestor Perret School. This wall, 7 metres high and 1.8 metres thick, is built of blocks of volcanic rock, and may have been part of the famous Vasso Galate Temple built during the Gallo-Roman period. Later incorporated into a small fortified castle, it was uncovered when the castle was demolished in 1939.

La fontaine d'Amboise

Despite five centuries of existence and repeated dismantling and removal, the beauty of this Gothic structure and the fineness of its Renaissance detail have remained intact. A Latin inscription informs us that the fountain was constructed in 1511 for the Archbishop of Clermont. Its original location was in front of the south portal of the Cathedral. Its octagonal basin, decorated in bas-relief, has 8 spouts sending forth a stream of water and a Gothic lantern crowns the central pillar. But the fountain is more than just a superb construction: it is also the bearer of an eternal message, a legacy left to the people of Clermont and translated by the Clermont fountain builder it was entrusted to.

Notre Dame du Port

A church was first built on this site during the 6th century in honour of the Virgin Mary. It was destroyed by the Normans in the 9th century but later restored and finally became the foundations of the present Romanesque church constructed during the 12th century. Built of yellow sandstone (the quarries of Volvic stone were not opened until the 12th century) the structure owes its wonderfully harmonious lines to its proportions which were based on the Golden Number. Ever since 1614, when 8,000 people came together to form a procession on Ascension Day at the end of a terrible winter, a procession has been held every year on the first Sunday following the 15 May and is a tradition which is still going strong.

The City Opera House

The Opera House is no ordinary building, but a venue for the performing arts. Its location, at the corner where the Boulevard Desaix runs down into Place de Jaude, puts it right in the heart of the city's entertainment district in the town centre. Its lines, which are more horizontal than vertical, are punctuated by fine windows and richly decorated upper storeys. This theatre is not shown off to its best on the Boulevard Desaix side as it is difficult to stand far enough back to admire the fine facade with its sculptured theatrical allegories. The Opera House was designed by Teillard, then the city architect, and built between 1891 and 1894 on the site of the old Halle aux Toiles (Cloth Hall) as a replacement for the theatre in the Place Royale (the present day Place de la Victoire). The Opera's main facade gives onto the Boulevard Desaix as this was the only side deep enough to accommodate the sequence of entrance hall, main staircases, auditorium and stage.

Vercingétorix

On 12 October 1903 the equestrian statue of Vercingetorix (the Gaulish chieftain who defeated Julius Caesar) was permanently fixed in place and inaugurated in what is today Place de Jaude. It had been sculpted by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1905), the creator of the Lion of Belfort and the Statue of Liberty. But the final bronze statue of Vercingetorix was erected only after much hesitation.

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