Le vigan

Yesterday

Around 500 B.C. the Volques, who had come from a zone running from the Rhône to the Garonne, inhabited the region. In the second century B.C. the Romans built a number of important communication routes, the two most important for Le Vigan being Nîmes-Rodez and Gévaudan-Lodève.
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Today

Le Vigan is an interesting place to visit, with a maze of narrow alleyways in the heart of the town, fountains, the "parc des Chataigner...'s" (sweet chestnut park), the medieval quarter around the Cevenol museum and the magnificent 12th century bridge.
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Bréau & Salagosse

The communities of Breau and Salagosse were joined by decree, on May 15th 1818.
The "commune" is made up of the nucleus Breau and other smaller hamlets, Salagosse, Serre, les Plans and Bruel...
The village of Breau lies on the side of the first foothills of the Aigoual.
The neoclassical protestant church was built in 1845. It is built in an unusual octagonal shape.

Mars

70km from the sea, 40km from the observatory on the Aigoual, 7km from Le Vigan, Mars is half way to being a mountain village on the edge of the Cevennes National Park, varying in height from 345 to 1,186 m in altitude, the commune extends over 380 hectares. The schist of the walls, the sweet chestnut tree (the tree of life for the Cevenols), the evergreen oak on the upper slopes, and the apple and cherry trees on the flat land are the symbols of the six hamlets which make up the commune :

  • l'Elzière,
  • Mars,
  • Pied Méjean,
  • Le Puech,
  • Le Reboul,
  • Le Truel.

If you continue up the D272 you pass the "col (hill) de Mouzoules" where there is a monument commemorating the murder of a group of protestants, surprised during a meeting.

Aumessas

Rich in history, Aumessas has firmly faced the future, taking care of its immediate environment and prioritising the quality of life : by developing an area to relax in near the old station, a swimming place in "Les Faisses"and a tennis court in the shade of the Ayrolle in the park. The beautiful flowers, and an original method of signposting, make going for a stroll a pleasure. Aumessas has been built in the shape of an amphitheatre and lies in a green valley between two small rivers : the Albagne with its beautiful waterfall and the Barezon. Aumessas has preserved and promoted its history :

  • The Cornier chateau
  • The church and 12th century open bell tower; the bell dates from 1539 and appears on the list of historic monuments.
  • The protestant church was rebuilt in1825. It was destroyed in 1688 during the tragic religious wars.
  • The remains of the Tournemire-Le Vigan railway line (its location, the guard house that stood next to the level crossing, a viaduct, bridges and tunnels).
Arrigas

In this village it is the huge church that demands your attention. From the outside there is little remaining evidence of the fortified building constructed in the 11th century by the Benedictine monks of Saint Victor of Marseilles. From the square you can see a Roman chevet and the cut off corner of a wall, which is the last trace of an ancient tower. Look out for the little porch linking the sanctuary to the old presbytery. In the 18th century it allowed the bishops, on holiday from Ales, to get into the sacristy without having to greet the local peasants.

In October 1625, the Duke of Rohan, at the head of protestant troops, laid siege to the church and the fortified village of Arrigas. The lord, Baron Charles d'Albignac, stayed loyal to the Catholic Church and the king.

The inside of the church has retained much of its early roman construction, despite the damage done by the Duke of Rohan.

On the right as you come in, there is a little polychrome wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, from the 18th century. Also interesting to see, on the left hand wall of the nave, is a painting of Saint Guiral that is on the inventory of historical monuments. It bears witness to some of the old beliefs that existed in the Cevennes.

Coming out of the church make your way through the little alleys, where you can see two porches, remains of the old fortifications.

Keep going down until you reach two old "lavoirs" (washing places), this is a beautiful spot where there is a waterfall and the bridge," Saint Esprit" which straddles the river. Back up in the square, you can see the huge wall of the second chateau of the d'Albignac family, built in the 17th century after the destruction of the Pont d'Arre by Rohan. The interior courtyard that you can see through the entrance gate is magnificent with both gemeled and mullioned windows.

Arre

This village is called after the river, which it spans. The oldest part of the village is on the right bank and stretches as far as the "Cap d'Arre", there are narrow streets, attractive houses and a medieval bridge. The old orphanage (1900) with its eye-catching tower was home to orphans from Aveyron who were brought to work in the hosiery factories. Arre was well known for its manufacture of natural silk stockings. The architecture from the previous century bears witness to the prosperity of this period : large houses, church, "Mairie", station, fountains....

Bez & Esparon

In the heart of the Arre valley, Bez looks like a medieval city, stuck to the side of the mountain, the houses built close together for protection and to maximise the valuable agricultural land.

For centuries Bez was a centre for two important cottage industries : hosiery and cooperage. The stockings made there were exported as far as Spain.

There are still impressive chateaux with Saracen towers in Bez.

The chateaux overlook the area and have been renovated and changed several times throughout the centuries. The Valette chateau situated away from and above the village dates from the 12th century. The Massal chateau on the other side of the bridge was renovated at the end of the 19th century. The ancient church has been renovated several times.

Esparon is a real eagle's eyrie, perched on the limestone peak at 663m, and offering remarkable views over the surrounding countryside. The little church has been restored : the lid of a beautiful Carolingian Sarcophagus has been transferred to the "salle du temps"in the museum in Le Vigan.



  • From Le Vigan follow signs for Mont Aigoual (D999).
  • After approx. 3kms, turn left and follow signs for Breau.

Look out for the octagonal shaped protestant church.

  • Retrace your steps and follow signs for Mars.

Keep going until you reach the Col de Mouzoules where a protestant gathering* was informed on by someone living in the commune. When the traitor was discovered, he had to dig his own tomb at the meeting place.

  • Continue along the D336 until you reach Aumessas, where the church is distinctive because of its open bell tower. Aumessas has the only protestant church in the valley.
  • Continue your route by following the D189, which links Aumessas to Arrigas.

This commune was traditionally catholic, as were Arre and Bez; there are a significant number of statues of the Virgin Mary along the Arre valley.

  • Come back along the D999 and return to Le Vigan.

*the protestant religion was banned, so the Huguenots met in isolated places to practice their religion.