Tourists, locals, instagrammers and other photo fans snap it non-stop ! It is impossible to miss no matter which direction you approach the town from ! The statue of Notre Dame de France emphasizes the aura of mysticism around this town of ancient monuments placed on high. Perched on the Corneille rock at 757m altitude, it dominates the town and its surroundings and offers breathtaking views.
The statue is open every day from February to November and every Sunday afternoon throughout the year (except during bad weather). The walk up to the statue has resting places, a drinking fountain and WC.
The Virgin Mary holding Jesus on her right arm (not the left as is usually portrayed) is the source of many rumours. It is said that when the sculptor finished his work he threw himself off the top of the statue in despair at having made such a mistake, but the truth is that the right arm was deliberately chosen so that the Virgin could bless the town without hiding her face ! Another choice anecdote involves its designer Mr Bonnassieux who was living very dangerously without realising ! When the statue was erected, he was given a cannon as a memento which he put in his garden for decoration. One day he noticed that the cannon was loaded !
As you approach the impressive statue, you feel you must go up to the viewing platform to feast your eyes on the amazing view and for spiritual pleasure too.
The history of the cast iron statue, erected in 1860, is fascinating. It was made from 213 Russian cannon confiscated during the Crimean War and donated by Napoleon III. It is the work of a famous 19th century sculptor, Jean Marie Bonnassieux, who loved religious art and created numerous works including the pediment of the Marsan building of the Louvre. The statue was inaugurated on 12 September 1860 in the presence of 120,000 pilgrims. It is 16m high (22m including the pedestal) and weighs 835 tonnes.
Get ready to click, ladies and gentlemen !
Rocher Saint Michel
Situated in the marvellous 4.3 hectare Jardin Henri Vinay, the museum has reopened after an 8-year restoration project. Its particularity is that it is an encyclopaedic or universal museum for popular education. When it was created in 1820 to contain ancient artefacts, it was an old, run-down church. As you can see its progress has been formidable ! Today it is a modern museum with virtual displays and a clever layout giving it 4,000m² of extra exhibition space. It is one of the last universal museums in France. Its architecture, modernised by Emmanuel Barois, has made it into a gem which is every bit as good as the great city museums. The Musée Crozatier is a marvellous blend of ancient and modern with its historic facade dating from 1868 on the garden side and an urban facade of stone and blue-tinted tempered glass on the street side.
It is impossible not to mention the wonderful show “Puy de Lumières” directed by Gilbert Coudène. This interactive, virtual show illuminates 8 sites in the town including the museum, from April to September. The internal facade of the museum features optical illusions showing Charles Crozatier coming out of his portrait to present his collection – a magical experience.
Discover the treasures of Haute-Loire, Viaduc de la Recoumène, Massif du Mézenc-Meygal and the Forteresse de Polignac."