Yersteday

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.

Between the 5th and 7th centuries the town was subjected to significant invasions. In the 10th century the Benedictine monks who had come from Marseilles, d'Aniane and St. Guilhem le Désert, built the first monastery "St. Peter's": the town grew up and became fortified around this priory. They improved the sweet chestnut production, and built many dry stone walls and terraces for agricultural cultivation.

In the middle of the 16th century reformism reached Le Vigan and the majority of the population converted to being Protestant. The Catholic royal powers reacted and organised dragonnades, burning down St. Peter's priory. The country was bathed in blood for the two centuries of religious wars.

After this difficult time, the town began a new chapter in its history : agriculture (sweet chestnuts and apples), and the silk industry brought a new prosperity to the area. The upper classes built some beautiful hotels, in particular :

  • Hotel de Faventines (Chateau d'Assas)
  • Hotel de Montardier (the Sous Préfecture)
  • Hotel de Ginestous (the Caisse d'Epargne)


Le château d'assas

This majestic building was built in a similar style to Parisian hotels and has more than a hundred windows on the façade. It was built over 8 years (1751 to 1759) for the Count Pierres Faventines, Louis 15th's farmer general.
It reflects the refined way of life in the town during the "Siecle des Lumieres"(the century of light) and reminds us of Le Vigan's role as the administrative capital of the Cevennes, under the old regime.
After the revolution, one of Faventines descendants married the rear admiral Jean-Francois d'Assas, hence the name "Chateau d'Assas".
In town ownership since 1996, the Chateau d'Assas is rented by the regional council, who with the support of the region has overseen its transformation into a countywide media centre. The Chateau d'Assas was classed as a Historic Monument in 2001.

 

The town prides itself on three heroes:

  • The knight of Assas
  • Sergeant Triaire
  • and the "chef" Marceau

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.


The old bridge

Before the construction of the bridge at the end of the 12th century, there was only a ford across the river Arre.
For a long time it was the only place to cross the river and it linked the Cevennes and the Causse, enabling exchanges between them, such as grain from the Causse, chestnuts from the Cevennes, and olives from the valleys...this Roman bridge became a symbol for Le Vigan.








Different artists have painted the bridge and the perfect circle formed by the bridge and its reflection in the river.
A watercolour by Montagné was made into a poster by the S.N.C.F. (national railways) in the '30s. The Tourist Office has run a reprint, which is available from them.
A path runs the length of the right bank of the Arre.
In 1938, the bridge and surrounding houses were classed as a historic monument.

 

The hotels, particularly those from the 18th century demonstrate the prosperity that the silk industry brought to the area.

The three octagonal fountains (17th century), known as "griffouls" supply fresh water from the spring "Isis".

It is a pleasure to rest and replenish yourself in this small town of 3500 inhabitants. You can stroll on the Quai where speed becomes a thing of the past, or spend a quiet time in the Chataigners (sweet chestnut) park, which has existed since the reign of Louis 15th originally as a field for fairs and markets, or you can walk along the banks of the Arre. There are a lot of different entertainments too, as well as walking, swimming and discovering local produce and arts and crafts.

 

Guides available:

  • Tour around the town
  • The Cevenol museum leaflet
  • A trip along the Arre river
  • List of events