Saint-Étienne -- Rhône-Alpes région, France
Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dôme) et Valence (Drôme)


Saint-Charles is a Cathedral Church only since 1970, but it was constructed between 1912 and 1923 in a primitive neo-Gothic style, on a Latin cross groundplan (Cathédrale Saint-Charles-de-Borromé de Saint-Étienne). Before the French Revolution the town had only two parishes: Saint-Étienne, possessing the mother church of the town of St. Stephen (13th century), and Notre-Dame (17th century). During the French Revolution the town Saint-Étienne was renamed (for a time) Armeville in honor of its manufacturing reknown. Later still it became a coal-mining center. More recently has been known for the manufacture of bicycles (Tour host (end-point on stage 18) in 2008, too). Inhabitants of Saint-Étienne are called stéphanois in French. They are named so because "Étienne" is French equivalent of the Greek Stephanos. Église Saint-Étienne du Mont is in Paris and a Cathedral for Saint-Étienne is in Metz, some of many churches named after the first century martyr, whose death was witnessed by Saint Paul.

Saint-Étienne claims its Musée d'Art Moderne (de Saint-Étienne Métropole) has one of the finest collections of Modern Art in the world, surpassed only by that in Paris and New York Ciy's Museum of Modern Art. Saint-Étienne is notable also for its tramway. During the 20th century, almost all other French cities got rid of their tram systems, only Saint-Étienne and Lille kept theirs. Saint-Étienne has, of course modernized its Tram-trains. Des Moines, Iowa, United States is a twin city, as well as Windsor in Canada (not Saint-Étienne) and Coventry in England.Étienne
Ligne de Saint Étienne-Lyon links the two cities. The historic line was built from 1828 to 1833 by Camille Seguin and Marc Seguin. The line was at first meant to traverse the town of Givors, cross the river Rhône and finish its course on the left bank (descending). The inhabitants of Givors protested in such large numbers that the line remained on the right bank (which is the western bank of the Rhône). It had steep grades, tunnels as well as river crossings. The engineers employed wooden ties instead of stone supports for the iron rails. By 1836, the rail-company possessed 12 locomotives, 135 wagons and transported its passengers from end to end in six hours. Horse were used for part of the route until 1844, when the trip was cut to about 2 hours and one-half hours. Gare Lyon-Perrache became the termination point. Ligne de Saint-Étienne - Lyon Today, in 2 hours 50 minutes one can travel the TGV (fast-train) from Gare Saint-Étienne-Châteaucreux to Paris.

The Saint-Étienne Metropolitan Area is located at the converging point of three valleys, the Gier, the Ondaine and the Furan. The regional national park of Pilat marks the southern boundary. To the north and west, lies the Forez plain and the extraordinary Gorges de la Loire. To the east, vast industrial areas lying at the foot of the "Monts du Lyonnais" lead into the vast Lyon Metropolitan Area. It is 50 minutes away by TGV.

If there is just one marvel of which you must partake while in Saint-Étienne, then it should be Fourme de Montbrison, a cheese. Like Fourme d'Ambert (à Auvergne), it is known from the 8th century (the Monts du Forez, where summers are hot and winters cold and long). This cheese is still produced today in low, thatched-roofed farm buildings called jasseries grouped in nearby hamlets. Fourme de Montbrison is from cow milk, cellar-matured for several weeks. Under its orangy rind, the cream color substance remains soft and streaked with blue (mold), yet it is less fatty than Fourme d'Ambert. And then there is wine --

Valence (Occitan Valença) is a commune in southeastern France, the capital of the department of Drôme (Sud Rhône-Alpes), situated on the left bank (descending) of the Rhône, 65 miles south of Lyon. Known in Roman times as Valentia Julia, the city had been the capital of the gauloise tribe Segalauni, and the seat of a celebrated school prior to the Roman conquest. It became a colony under Augustus and the seat of a bishopric perhaps as early as the 4th century (an ancient Archdiocese of Vienne). Unfortunately, the area was one of those in France, passed around to various conquering forces. So it became the subject of external and internal political controversy for 1000 years after Rome passed from the scene, eventually put on an equal footing with those subjects in the rest of Dauphiné.

La Cathédrale Saint Apollinaire (Bishop died 520), rebuilt in the 11th century in the Romanesque style of Auvergne was consecrated in 1095 by Pope Urban II. It suffered extensive damage in the French Wars of Religion, but it was restored. The structure contains the monument of Pope Pius VI, who died at Valence in 1799. North of the cathedral and south of l'Église de St-Jean (on the Grande Rue), which has preserved its Romanesque tower and porch capitals, are some of the oldest and narrowest streets of vieux Valence.

Après le génocide arménien (1918-1921), de nombreux ressortissants viennent se réfugier à Valence: aujourd’hui, un Valentinois sur dix est originaire d’Arménie. A l’instar du Vercors, la Seconde Guerre Mondiale fait payer un lourd tribut à la ville: la partie nord de Valence est quasiment rasée dans des bombardements visant le pont sur le Rhône.

Côtes du Rhône (roughly means Rhone Hills or Slopes) is an area Appellation assigned to a growing region south of Lyon along the Rhône River (centered at Valence, traveling down to about Arles or Orange. This area of France has an ancient wine-growing history. The Rhône Valley, by its very nature, has always been the ideal route between the Mediterranean and northern Europe. The Greeks and later Romans (from 125BC) grew or traded for wine grown in this spot. In the 14th century, the Avignon Popes drank the local Côtes du Rhône produit with gusto.

Côtes du Rhône, probably the most diverse wine region in France, has 22 varietals (of grapes). Throughout the southern Rhône Valley, white, red, and rosé wines may be sold as Côtes du Rhône, so that one has an opportunity to sample various blends of these wines. With a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache, a 2005 red wine from Guigal has been called a "real head turner" - Full-bodied, with a deep ruby-purple color and sweet notes of berry fruit and some spice. It is ready to drink now, yet it will continue to develop over the next few years. Both Marcel Guigal (since 1946) and Philippe, his son, know that quality is everything in these wines. The Guigal blends, like this wine, just become better and better.

Valence-d'Agen is a much smaller town and commune of the Tarn-et-Garonne département in southwestern France, northeast of Auch. It sits in the Deux Rives area (une communauté de communes). It is also close (30 miles-45km) to the west of Montauban, the capital (préfecture) of the Tarn-et-Garonne and north of Toulouse.

Clermont-Ferrand, in the Auvergne region (Puy-de-Dôme department), is famous for the multiple volcanoes, the Chaîne des Puys, surrounding it, Puy-de-Dôme (13km from the city) the highest. Clermont-Ferrand's most famous public square is Place de Jaude, on which rides a grand statue of King Vercingetorix on a steed and holding a glaive. The inscription reads: J'ai pris les armes pour la liberté de tous -- "I took to arms for the liberty of all". This statue was sculpted by Frédéric Bartholdi, who also created the Statue of Liberty and the Lion of Belfort. And, the city has built a tramway, one of the first constructed after World War II.

Clermont ranks among the oldest cities of France. The first known mention was by the Greek geographer Strabo, who called it the "metropolis of the Arverni" (meaning their oppidum, civitas or tribal capital). The city was at that time called Nemessos, a Gaulish word for a sacred forest, and sits on the mound where Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption de Clermont-Ferrand rests. This is Vercingetorix's country, which gave way to Rome. Known by the third century as Arvernis, in 848, the city was renamed Clairmont. The current Gothic structure made from volcanic stone (pierre de Volvic), lies atop the foundations of three earlier cathedrals of the roman-style. In 1248, inspired by a pilgrimage to Sainte-Chapelle (location of true cross in Paris), Bishop Hugues de la Tour began work on a new cathedral. His goal, to construct an ediface in the prestigious Northern Gothic style. The structure's imposing location and its history of change, illustrates in stone the focus for the political struggles of that time and later. An example, political calculations caused the town of Montferrand to rise on a hill right next to Clairmont's fortifications in the Middle Ages. The two towns had to be forcibly united by edict (twice).

Strangely enough, Norman OK (aka Flatland, USA), is the sister city to Clermont-Ferrand. The French tire manufacturer Michelin rolled out from Clermont-Ferrand to become a worldwide leader in the tire industry, yet it has kept its headquarters in the city. The city's most famous figure is the mathematician, philosopher and sometime inventor Blaise Pascal.

One of the five major fantastic-looking Norman/Romanesque churches of the Auvergne, Basilique de Notre-Dame, ORCIVAL (15 miles southwest of Clermont_Ferrand) was built at the beginning of the XIIth century from a volcanic stone - andesite, like its sisters; built also to house the famous statue of the Madonna which it does to this day.

The scenic Vallée de Cotatay, close to Saint-Étienne, has for 150 years been the end-point of a lesser-known pilgrimage. Une grande première pour le diocèse: la vidéo du pèlerinage de Cotatay sur You Tube !

Links to other pages about nearby cities in France: Lyon -- Grenoble -- The Roman Vienna lies just south of Lyon -- Romans-sur-Isère -- Hautrive -- Vichy -- Limousin Region -- Mâcon

Celtic/Frank History -- Germaniæ Historicæ -- Anglo Saxons
Reformation from a French-Protestant point of view

Montpellier, Nîmes, Arles, Orange et. al. -- Avignon -- Narbonne -- Toulouse -- Carcassonne -- Béziers -- Marseilles -- Pau -- Bayonne -- Orléans -- Bordeaux -- Nantes

Île de Ré, La Roche-sur-Yon, LaRochelle, Rochefort, Saintes & Royan -- Tours -- Caen, Rouen & Rennes

New: 07/15/08