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Mairie de Chamalières

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Un peu d’histoire


D&ecute;plier/ReplierMayors of Chamalières

  • 1881-1903 Pierre POISSON
  • 1903-1904 Adrien MORIN
  • 1904-1906 Hippolyte CHATROUSSE
  • 1906-1911 Edouard BAUDRY
  • 1911-1912 Antoine COLLIER
  • 1912-1919 Jean VEISSIER
  • 1919-1967 Pierre CHATROUSSE
  • 1967-1974 Valéry GISCARD d’ESTAING (President of the French Republic from 1974 to 1981)
  • 1974-2005 Claude WOLFF
  • Depuis 2005 Louis GISCARD d’ESTAING

D&ecute;plier/ReplierOrigin of Chamalières Chamalières dates back to approximately the year 665, with the foundation of a nunnery by the Count of Auvergne Genès, in the valley of the Tiretaine.

The territory of Chamalières was populated very early, as some prehistoric and Celtic remains have indeed been found. In Gallo-Roman times, it was part of the vast area that formed the city of Augusto-Nemetum (the future Clermont). Traces of a necropolis, cells of a sanctuary near the source of the Roches and the large thermal baths of Rubiacum (Royat) were extracted from its soil.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, it entered a dark period and it is attested that a small village, centred around an abbey, existed only by the seventh century. Despite its lack of importance, in the following centuries it possessed up to five churches, of which only one remains, the current Notre-Dame.

Located in a pleasant and fertile valley, Chamalières was among the possessions of the Counts of Auvergne. Later on, after remaining for some time in the hands of a family named Chamalières, a marriage brought it to the heirs of Auvergne who, after 1240, recognized the possession of this place and its belongings (Montrognon, Aubière, Chanonat, Pérignat and Opme), as a tribute to the bishop of Clermont.

In the fifteenth century, as a result of a marriage, Chamalières became the property of the heirs of the Bourbon house and, after the forfeiture of the goods of the Constable Charles de Bourbon, was reunited to the crown in 1531. In 1554, the commissioners of the king sold it to Catherine de Medici, for 2,171 pounds. Then, Charles de Valois, natural son of Charles IX, enjoyed it until 1606, when Chamalières was awarded to Marguerite de Valois by an order of Parliament. The latter donated it to the heir, the future Louis XIII. In 1651, Chamalières was included in the territories given to the Duke of Bouillon, Frédéric Maurice de la Tour, in exchange for the Principality of Sédan. Chamalières remained a possession of the family de la Tour until 1789.

Chamalières has been the chief town of the commune since 1790; it was even, from 1790 to the year IV, the chief town of a canton in the district of Clermont, which included the towns of Chanat, Durtol, l’Etang, Laschamp, Montrodeix, Nohanent, Orcines, Royat and Villars.

Around the middle of the nineteenth century, Chamalières remained isolated from Clermont and was connected only by bad roads. This was all to change after 1850, first with the construction of the road from Clermont to Limoges (which would become the Joseph-Claussat Avenue) and then, in 1879, with the Avenue de Royat on which, about twenty years later, an electric tramway line (the first in France) was put into operation. In 1881, the completion of the viaduct allowed the railway Clermont-Tulle to become operative.

D&ecute;plier/ReplierChamalières, ancient city

A pre-Roman settlement

People early occupied the territory of Chamalières, their settlement facilitated by the abundance of water sources such as rivers. The earliest remains date back to the Iron Age (about 800 BC) and have been found on the land of Fontmaure (potsherds and pieces of Gallic coins). But the most numerous remains date back to the Gallo-Roman period, when Chamalières was integrated into the broader Augustonemetum (Clermont) agglomeration. The territory of Chamaliéres then became the western entrance to the ancient city of the Alvernian.

The Roman road and the origin of the name Chamalières.

The name of Chamalières has been attributed to many possible origins. Several serious links to the name have been found in the ancient period. It was thus assumed that in Chamalières there was a temple dedicated to Mercury, connected to the more important temple of Puy-de-Dôme, also called Camellus. Whatever was dedicated to the service of the temple was called Cameli . However, the most plausible explanation seems to be the hypothesis of a horse depot (Caballus + Aria) along the important Roman road at the entrance of Augustonemetum, the Agrippa road, which connected, east to west, Lugdunum (Lyon) to Mediolanum Santonum (Saintes). The Roman road of Colombiers seems to be a vestige of this road.

The Aqueduct

For supplying Augustonemetum with water, an underground and then above-ground aqueduct led water through a network of tunnels running across Clermont Hill. So, the aqueduct tapped waters at Villars and above, then, at the present College Teilhard de Chardin, the aqueduct ran on the outer surface. Then it passed over the territory of Chamalières as evidenced by the toponymy of the places in the eleventh century, "the Roads of the Vaults" (currently Joseph Claussat Avenue, Torrilhon Street) and the local region, "the Arches" near Jaude.

The Gallo-Roman Thermae

Quite large, they consisted of three pools supplied by a network of canals made of bricks. Luxurious, they were covered with mosaics and marble slabs.

The Gallo-Roman "Lourdes"

During excavations from 1968 to 1971, at the location of the Desroches water source, more than 7,000 ex-votos were discovered. These statuettes of pilgrims, thousands of representations of lower or upper limbs and busts, show that this source was the subject of a major cult in Gallo-Roman times, and numerous votive aedicules surrounded this miraculous source. These ex-votos are at the present time exhibited at the Bargoin museum in Clermont-Ferrand.

D&ecute;plier/ReplierChamalières at the time of paper mills

The Tiretaine and Chamalières

The Tiretaine made Chamalières wealthy. It served to irrigate land and at the same time to strengthen the defensive system of the medieval fortifications of Chamalières, by diverting water into the artificial moats at the foot of the ramparts (see Chamalières Magazine No 152). But hydraulic energy, used very early in history, also made the city’s fortune. Also a grain mill, assumed to be from the Gallo-Roman period, has been found near Saint-Mart. Many mills are mentioned in the texts of the Middle Ages, among which the mill of the Gravière (Gravel), near the bridge, is now represented by a fresco of Slobo.

Mills of Chamalières

At the end of the Middle Ages, there were at least twelve mills in Chamalières. The mill wheels did not turn directly over the river, but on a millcourse coming from the Tiretaine. The millcourses led the water to the vane wheel. (The last visible example of an old millcourse: the vaulted hall of the house of the associations). If the first mills were flour mills, their relative importance gradually declined, because of the installation of mills devoted to other activities, that is the iron working for gunsmiths of the early fifteenth century, and the manufacture of paper.

Paper mills

At the end of the Middle Ages, the paper mills were developed, making Chamalières one of the most important papermaking centres in Auvergne, together with Ambert and Thiers. The first known papermaker in Chamalières is a certain Antoine CHARPINEL, mentioned in 1412.

Development of the paper industry in Chamalières...

The paper industry in Chamalières really took off in the mid-fifteenth century. The year 1512 saw the first statistics related to the mills of Chamalières: of 20 mills, there were 8 paper mills! This new industry made the fortune of the great papermaking dynasties of Chamalières, such as the Tardes, Mary and Boyt... So, in 1631, Gilbert Boyt left his heirs the financial equivalent of the amount of taxes paid to the king in a year by the city of Riom!

Rags called "flags", required to manufacture the pulp, were collected on the outskirts of the Clermont conglomeration. The paper obtained was then of good quality. It was more than adequate to meet local demand and, especially the watermarked paper, the "form paper", was highly appreciated by civil and religious authorities. Part of the production was also distributed in the rest of France and in Europe.

... And its sad decline.

D&ecute;plier/ReplierChamalières at the time of fortresses

The birth of medieval Chamalières

If during the ancient period the territory of Chamalières was the western entrance to the Arverne city of Augustonemetum, from the High Middle Ages, the ancient city withdrew. Chamalières became then an autonomous territory of Clermont. Thus, the inhabitants scattered at Gallo-Roman times, retired in a precise point of the Chamalières area, that is the village developing around the future castle and its five churches, a vast territory which had become rural.

The medieval village of Chamalières and its important religious role

The village was established from the sixth century at the crossroads of the ancient Roman road Agrippa and at a crossing site of the Tiretaine (current site of the bridge of Gravière). Five churches were founded in the seventh century (see "Chamalières Magazine" No. 149) around the present Sully square. This concentration of five churches in such a small perimeter is quite exceptional and shows the attractiveness of the territory of Chamalières for religious

The feudal castle around the year one thousand

If it was during the Middle Ages that the district of churches was built, it is really around the year one thousand when the feudal period of Chamelières began. At the end of the tenth century, a feudal castle was built. It consisted of a hillock (motte-and-bailey) surmounted by a dungeon. The wall, said to be of the "Saracens", is now the last vestige, together with the remains of the Church of Saint Paul, where there was the chapel. The habitat, already concentrated around churches, was reorganized with regard to the castle. At that time, a boundary wall surrounded the feudal village, the so-called "Saracen" tower or "Old tower" of which a remnant was still visible before its destruction in 1937. The city cemetery was then at the foot of the Notre-Dame church, now Sully Square.

Lords of Chamalières

The first lords of Chamalières were members of a small feudal lineage, appearing around the year one thousand, of which Chamalières was the eponymous land. The first individual explicitly mentioned by historians as Lord of Chamalières is Arnaud the First of Chamalières. His unknown lineage consisted of warlike lords, who took part in the crusades, in particular those demanded by Pope Urban II from Clermont, in 1095. They distinguished themselves in the search of the "Paillards Cottereaux", some brigands who ravaged the country from 1183 to 1185. Members of this pure feudal family were absolute masters of Chamalières. It was a freehold-lordship, that is a land free of tribute, until 1196, when finally Chamalières became a fief of the bishop of Clermont, before the annexation of the lands of the heirs of Auvergne in 1240, as a consequence of a marriage.

D&ecute;plier/ReplierMontjoli, from the Castle to the City hall of CHAMALIÈRES…

All the inhabitants of Chamalières of a certain age still remember the vast area of Montjoli surrounded by the high and impenetrable walls of his castle and his somewhat mysterious park. Today, the walls have disappeared, the castle has become the city hall and the park, a public park.

The origins

The first mention of Montjoli dates back to the middle of the sixteenth century. It is one of five areas which made up Chamalières at that time and which are at the origin of the names of its neighbourhoods (La saigne, Beaulieu, Galoubies, les Saulces, Beaurepaire).

From the sixteenth century until the eighteenth century, the property of Montjoli changed owners regularly, often in favour of middle-class families of Clermont, who sought a country residence for the weekly rest.

But the castle as we know it was built in 1760 by the canon Michel Girard de La Batisse, the new owner of Montjoli from 1751. This residence of classical inspiration and stern appearance, with its mansard roof covered with slate, its arched opening on the ground floor and its charming little porch with the wrought iron railing before the entrance door, dominates the surrounding on its basalt pedestal. The cornice of the building, the framing of its openings, the facings, the basement made of Volvic slabs, give more solemnity to the whole. But Montjoli was not destined to remain to the same family. On the death of Canon GIRARD, around 1789, his heirs sold it. It changed hands many times, but without changing the appearance of the castle. Under the Second Empire, while Montjoli was the property of the MARPON family, the Duke of Morny and the imperial Prince, the son of Napoleon III, stayed there several times.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the project of making the Montjoli castle a superior school for girls was considered. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the transfer of the Blaise Pascal Superior school to Montjoli was also evoked.

The new City hall

In 1955, of the large estates that had characterized Chamalières, there remained only the broad area of 7 hectares of Montjoli. But the new owner of Montjoli, Paul LASSERRE, residing in Neuilly and not having the possibility to enjoy this property, decided to part with it. The Mayor of Chamalières, Pierre CHATROUSSE, convened the municipal council and decided, on May 14, 1955, to buy the estate for 150 million francs of that time, which were paid in three instalments. This expenditure was immediately and totally recovered by the conveyance of some plots of land along the avenues Pasteur and Thermes, for the building of the present properties and by the conveyance of 16 plots of land along the new Avenue de Montjoli, for villas and other buildings, as well as the Montjoli Complex of Schools. The park, only a little reduced in size, became a public park. In 1960, the old residence of Montjoli officially became the city hall of Chamalières and, in the same historical place, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Mayor since 1967, announced his candidature for the Presidency of the Republic, in April 1974.

D&ecute;plier/ReplierHistory of Notre-Dame of Chamalières  [1]

Notre-Dame, the survivor of the five churches of Chamalières

It is accepted that in the seventh century Chamalières had five churches. This concentration of five buildings within such a small perimeter made the medieval village of Chamalières an important religious centre, which would be strengthened by the establishment of a chapter of canons in the church of Notre-Dame in the eleventh century. All were within a square of about fifty meters along one side. The proximity of these religious buildings was such that during the extension of the Church of Notre-Dame in the twelfth century, the small church of Sainte-Croix was absorbed by the new Romanesque building. Notre-Dame, Sainte-Croix, Saint-Sauveur, Saint-Paul and Saint-Pierre were placed at the very centre of the village of Chamalières: all were on the edge of the current Sully square. All have disappeared, except for the Church of Saint-Paul, whose building is still visible at the corner of Lufbéry street and Languedoc street and which was listed in 1942. But the magnificent Roman church of Notre-Dame of Chamalières is the only church which has survived as a religious building.

Notre-Dame, a beautiful Romanesque which has undergone some changes...

Notre-Dame of Chamalières, with his Romanesque style of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, was rebuilt several times. From the pre-Romanesque building remains only the narthex and the western nave, which certainly dates before the year one thousand. The narthex, of Carolingian origin, has an octagonal plant and is rare enough to be highlighted. Inside the church, two capitals attract a major interest, marked by the desire to renew the ancient forms which then pervaded the sculptors. With its ambulatory and radiating chapels, the choir, which dates back to the twelfth century, had a structure comparable to that of Notre-Dame du Port, Orcival or Saint Nectaire, but was transformed in the late seventeenth century. In the thirteenth century, the canons also changed the Romanesque pillars into Tuscan pillars. The Notre-Dame church is a so remarkable monument that Romantic painters and designers have often taken it as a subject, depicting it with the elm of Sully, which was felled in 1857, in the foreground. Until the Revolution, a sort of dome (which is visible on a drawing representing Chamalières in the fifteenth century) surmounted it; it was replaced in the nineteenth century by the current bell tower. In the interior, there are also many interesting gravestones.

[1] This article was written with the help of Anne COURTILLE, Professor of Art History of the Middle Ages at the University Blaise-Pascal

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