A major Burgundy heritage site and the start of a route of the Way of St. James since the 11th century, the village of Vézelay, on the edge of the Morvan, is renowned for its Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene. Overlooking the Renaissance dwellings and winegrowers' houses in the village, this jewel of medieval architecture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built in the 12th century and restored in the 19th century by the famous architect Viollet-le-Duc. After passing through the portal in its imposing western façade, the three carved portals of its narthex are an amazing sight to discover. The incredible tympanum of the central portal depicting Christ in Glory is itself a genuine masterpiece of the Romanesque style! In the light-filled, majestically proportioned nave, the columns are topped by superb carved capitals from the 12th century, all extremely elegant. While visiting this exceptional place, you can also admire the rib-vaulted Gothic choir and the polychrome wall paintings in the Carolingian crypt, as well as the arcades of the cloister and the chapter house.
Vézelay is particularly keen to celebrate culture. At the Visitor's House you can discover the skills and techniques used by the builders of the basilica. There is also the Jules Roy House, named after the writer who once owned it and now a place of culture and remembrance. In the writer Romain Rolland's house, the Zervos Museum displays a superb collection of modern art. The Museum of the Work of Viollet-le-Duc, based in the former monks' dormitory adjoining the basilica, focuses on the basilica's restoration. It exhibits original sculptures from the building, which have been moved due to being too damaged or fragile to remain in place.
Yet there's more to Vézelay than its prestigious monument and cultural attractions. It also has a picturesque village, listed among the most beautiful in France, and it overlooks the Cure Valley. Known as the "eternal hill", you can discover its charms as you explore its ramparts interspersed with towers, wall walk, two fortified gates and period houses.
It's well worth spending some time in the medieval village. The main street is full of charm, with its houses' old façades and its art and craft shops. Near the basilica, the terrace of the old abbey castle and its shady esplanade offer a superb view over the Cure Valley and the Morvan. This lovely place is dotted with benches, making it ideal for a stroll or a little rest...
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