- the connoisseur's guide to France
- historic small town
Lying 35 kilometers to
the south of
Issoire - view across the rooftops
Clermont Ferrand, a couple of kilometres to
the west of the river Allier, Issoire is one of the many attractive
of the Auvergne
area. The town is located at the southern exit from the northern Allier
gorge, and began life as the site of a small settlement with a church
honouring Saint Austremoine, reputed as the man who converted the
Arverne tribes to Christianity in the third century.
settlement was largely abandoned from the sixth to the ninth centuries,
but grew up again in the early middle ages, notably with the creation
of a major Benedictine monastery on the site. The great monastery
church, the Abbey church of Saint Austremoine, was consecrated in or
around the year 1130, and stands to this day.
The limits of the old town are clearly visible on the map,
encircled as they are today by a boulevard. The old centre is
skirted to the west by what was, until the arrival of the A75 motorway,
the N9 road running from Clermont Ferrand to the Spanish border.
Issoire, the old town.
Most of the old town dates from the seventeenth century or later, since
Issoire was sacked during the wars of religion. The abbey
of Saint Austremoine
was however largely spared, and
although it was
extensively renovated in the 19th century, it remains to this day as
one of the Five Great Romanesque churches of the Auvergne, along with
the nearby churches of Saint Nectaire, Orcival, St. Saturnin, and Notre
Dame du Port in Clermont Ferrand.
Issoire - Tour de l'Horloge and Place de la République
historic churches are the classic examples of the distinctive Auvergne
Romanesque style. Saint Austremoine in Issoire is noted for the
exuberant murals in the choir and the apse. Though these date from the
19th century, they give an authentic impression of the way many
churches were decorated in medieval times, specially monastic
churches with access to artists and funds.
outside of the romanesque apse of Saint Austremoine boasts fine
decorative polychrome stonework in the style similar to the great
medieval churches to the south, St. Julian's Basilica in Brioude
, and the Cathedral of Le Puy
Immediately south of the abbey, on the site of the former Benedictine
monastery, the Georges Duby Romanesque Art Centre has a display of
early medieval artefacts.
The focal point of the old town is the Place de la République
with its cafés, shops and restaurants; nearby stands the Tour de l'Horloge
or clock tower; originally built in the 16th century. The tower as it
stands today is the a 19th century renovation, built in the signature
grey Volvic basalt that has long been used for important buildings in
and around Clermont Ferrand. Climb up to the terrace for a fine view of
the rooftops and beyond. The fountain in the middle of the square is
built with the same Volvic stone.
Montpeyroux, one of the prettiest villages in Francee
activities The area round Issoire has
a dense network of marked hiking trails, cycling
routes and mountain-biking circuits. there is also kayaking on the
(several canoe/kayak hire locations - summer only).
- The Auvergne
wildlife park at Ardes sur Couze, 24 km southwest of
Issoire. A mountainside wildlife
park, incorporating areas of forest and natural
Half way between
Clermont Ferrand, and just off the A75 motorway, Montpeyroux,
a hilltop village distinctly recognisable by the round medieval tower
in the middle of the
village, is classed as one of the Most beautiful villages in France.
near Saint Nectaire, has an impressive medieval fortress, with historic
reenactments in the summer months
- Saint Nectaire.
Small town 25 km west of Issoire, with two claims to fame: on the one
hand its cheese, Saint-Nectaire being one of the best-known cheeses of
the Auvergne; on the other hand its fine romanesque church, dating from
the same period as St. Austremoine in Issoire. A third attraction in
Saint Nectaire are the petrifying springs,
whose very mineral-rich waters rapidly coat objects in calcite.
An underground visit takes in a 14 metre waterfall, hot
and the workshops where craftsmen have been petrifying objects for over
- Santiago de
Compostela trails. St Austremoine is a key
point on the Via Arverna,
one of the historic branches of the Compostela prilgrimage trails, also
called the Way of St. James. This Arverna trail begins at the church of
Notre Dame du Port in Clermont Ferrand, continues southwards to
Brioude, and from there westwards into the Cantal volcano area and
thence to Moissac, Saint Jean Pied de Port, and on into Spain.
The nearest airport is Clermont Ferrand, served all year by
from Paris and Amsterdam, and sometimes from London. The nearest major
airport is Lyon St.Exupéry ( 3
hrs drive), which has flights all over Europe.
- By train
Issoire is a short 20 minute train ride from
Clermont-Ferrand. Clermont-Ferrand is three and a half hours from
are also trains from Nimes and Aurillac
- By car Issoire
is on the A75 (Paris-) Clermont-Ferrand - Montpellier motorway.
under 3 hours from Lyon.
- By bike
Issoire is just off the new V70 Via
cycle route, a delightful north-south cycle route that will eventually
be signposted right down to the Mediterranean. At present it is fully
waymarked from Nevers, on the Loire, to Langogne near the source of the
© About-France.com except where otherwise stated.
Photo top of page : interior of St
Austremoine's Abbey church, Issoire
tourist information for Issoire:
: the Auvergne
part of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region.
: Clermont-Ferrand, Le Puy
Clermont-Ferrand (30 minutes) Lyon (3 hours)
: Abbey church of St Austremoine,
Romanesque art centre .
attractions and sites
: The mountains of Sancy, the Puy de
Dôme, La Chaise Dieu, the Auvergne wildlife park.
Where to stay
The About-France.com selection
Hotels for all
budgets and all needs
Originals Boutique, Hôtel Le Pariou
Close to the historic centre, three star hotel with pool.
Outside town (about a mile from the centre)
, A 75 exit 12
Generally well reviewed two-star hotel beside the motorway exit. Free
parking, restaurants close by
le Petit Mass
, A 75 exit 12
Well reviewed independent hotel with large en-suite rooms. Restaurant.
A 75 exit 12
Classic Ibis hotel. Restaurants close by . Lake close by
, A 75 exit 12
Free parking, restaurants nearby. Lake close by.
, A 75 exit 12
3-star chain hotel with restaurant, close to the motorway
Municipal campsite, a short distance from A75 exit 12, beside a lake
plenty of restaurants for all tastes, from gourmet restaurants in the
old town to a MacDonaldsnear the motorway exit.
There is a large Carrefour supermarket on the town side of A75 motorway
exit 12. There is a Monoprix close to the town centre.
Polychrome stonework on the apse of St Austremoine's abbey
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