The former capital of Haute-Auvergne, Aurillac's origins date back to Gallo-Roman times and the town nestles at the foot of the Mounts of Cantal, on the banks of the Jordanne. This small Cantal river brings a very special charm to the town, especially in the Pont Rouge area, where you can enjoy a lovely view of the picturesque old houses by the water.
The thousand-year-old town of Aurillac boasts a rich architectural heritage. There is a historical circuit which you can follow to see the old town's attractions: the Abbey Church of St. Gerald, the remains of an old Benedictine abbey, the Romanesque façade of the Abbey Hospital of St. Gerald with its arcades and small columns, the Renaissance-style Consuls' Mansion, featuring mullioned windows and sculptures, Aurinques Chapel, built during the reign of Henry IV in the 16th century, or the famous Place du Square, an ideal place to take a stroll and unwind, can all be admired along the way.
Near the agreeable Carmes Garden, you can visit the Museum of Art and Archaeology. Based in the old 17th-century Visitandines Convent, as well as its archaeology and fine art collections, it contains a reconstruction of a traditional Cantal interior, a contemporary photographic archive, and a space devoted to the local umbrella industry.
Next, head towards the heights of the town to discover the medieval Saint-Étienne Castle and its Volcano Museum, a fascinating site about the volcanic history of Cantal and the mysteries of Planet Earth, featuring a permanent collection of rocks, minerals and taxidermy. After the visit, don't hesitate to pay a visit to the pretty park downhill from the castle, where you will have a lovely view of the town!
When it comes to events, if you like street arts, don't miss the international street theatre festival, which livens up the town for 4 days in late August.
If you are looking for a souvenir to take home, don't miss the chance to acquire an umbrella, Aurillac's most famous product, which has conquered the luxury goods industry and is exported all over the world!
The beginning of the Ridge Route (Route des Crêtes) begins at the exit from the town. This is a very beautiful itinerary which you can travel along by car, motorbike or bicycle, to enjoy stunning views over the Mounts of Cantal…
Aurillac has developed around the Benedictine Abbey Saint-Géraud. Originally, it was the domain of Aurelius: Aureliacum. This rich Gallo-Roman character settled his home well beyond the temple of Aron, at the mouth of the valley of Jordanne, on the territory that perpetuated his name and will become that of the city of Aurillac.
This site opens widely in range...
On the borders of Languedoc and Quercy, at the foot of the last foothills of the Cantalian volcano, this site called in a way urban life. Yet for a long time, nothing is known, except that a feudal castle rose on the heights that dominate the city to the north. It belonged in the first half of the ninth century to a man of high lineage, son, it is believed, of Gerard I Count of Auvergne, who built in the meadow, at the foot of the castle, a small church dedicated to St. Clement, which supposes that some houses were to be grouped around the castle already called castle Saint-Etienne. At his death, his son Géraud inherited his vast estates which extended, tells us the chronicler, from Puy Griou to Rouergue and Périgord. Geraud was a man renowned for his piety and goodness. He decided to found an abbey he would endow with all his property and had built, around 896, the church of the future monastery next to the one that had had his father built. It was under the double name of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Clément, before taking later that of its founder: Saint-Géraud.
After the death of Géraud (around 910)...
After the death of St. Geraud, the miracles that occurred around his tomb attracted such an influx of "crowds from more distant countries" that we had to build a larger church. Etienne II, bishop of Auvergne, came to consecrate it in 972 and, says a document of that year, the bishop decided that the church of Aurillac would be considered as the second of his bishopric after that of his seat episcopal in Clermont.
In this tenth century ending, the abbey was in full swing...
And it was from his school that the monk Gerbert, one of the greatest scientists of his time, the "maker of kings", became Pope under the name of Sylvester II in 999.
The pilgrims, among whom old King Robert must be counted, continued to flock. One of them, Bernard d'Angers, tells how, going to Conques around the year 1010, he made the detour towards Aurillac attracted by the fame of the "majesty" of Saint-Géraud "resplendent with gold the purest and most precious jewels. " That of Saint-Foy in Conques, allows us to imagine what was Saint-Géraud's.
In the second half of the eleventh century...
The church was still remodeled and Pope Urban II, returning from preaching the crusade to the Council of Clermont, stopped there in 1095 to consecrate it again. However around the abbey, a small agglomeration developed which extended progressively towards the west, along the Jordanne and on the slope of Aurinques. A first enclosure, soon became too narrow, was completed by a second to the west and the whole was redone in 1347. This development of the medieval city is visibly perceptible on any current plan.
The "bourgeois" of Aurillac, in other words the citizens of the city, appear for the first time in the texts at the end of the 12th century. Their trade is active, one meets them even at the famous fairs of Champagne. In the center of their village, they build a church dedicated to Notre-Dame on the site of the current town hall and, very early, give themselves consuls (magistrates, municipal...), in agreement with the abbot who remains the lord and for whom they fight, as the case may be, with the cry of "Aorlhac, Aorlhac, per san Guiral, and by the slaughter" (Aurillac, Aurillac, for Saint-Géraud and for the abbot). We are in Oc land.
This good agreement lasted until the crisis of the Albigensian war. In 1233, the riot broke out in the city. Castle Saint-Etienne, abbot's home, is destroyed. From then on, the struggles were continuous, punctuated by the so-called "Peace of Aurillac" conventions, passed in 1280, 1298 and 1347 between the abbot and the burghers.
A few years later began the English wars...
In Auvergne, the region of Aurillac had to suffer the ravages of the road gangs who tried in vain to take the city protected by its ramparts and gates padlocked. On several occasions she had to pay heavy tribute to keep looters away. It is however at this period that was definitively fixed, in 1366, the seat of royal bailiwick of the Mountains, thus affirming the role of administrative capital of the oldest city of Haute-Auvergne.
The peace returned, then begins at the end of the Middle Ages, a time of reconstruction followed by a period of relative prosperity that came to disturb the wars of religion. The abbey, which had been secularized in 1561, was completely ravaged in 1569 by the Protestants, like the other monuments of the city.
However, once the ruins restored, Aurillac reached adulthood, released from the tutelage of the abbey, continues to grow on its initial momentum. City of commerce and dress - the bailiwick officers had come to join in 1552 those of the presidential court - she begins to quietly out of its ramparts become useless for its defense. "Principal city", it was, in 1775, according to the controller of the twentieth, "very populated" and its "well built houses". Naturally, when the department was created in 1790, she entered the first place.
Saint-Flour, his rival beyond the mountains, did not understand it so. The system of alternation broke their quarrel. It was terminated rather quickly and Aurillac became definitely the capital of Cantal. The eighteenth century had seen the crumbling of its walls, but the city had just left the enclosure of the fourteenth century. It was not until the nineteenth century and especially the arrival of the railway in 1886 to witness a new push to the west that continues today.
A place of trade and commerce...
For the whole of the department, Aurillac remains a crossroads but the city on the banks of the Jordanne is also an active cultural and tourist center where a large youth is welcomed in its secondary schools, and, recently, higher.