Start of the journey on the road to Compostela
Standing dramatically on an ancient volcano at the departure point of the Via Podiensis towards Compostela, the city of Le Puy-en-Velay was built on steep volcanic slopes. The sanctuary is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Le Puy-en-Velay is situated in the volcanic heart of France, the Auvergne, with three Natural Regional Parks surrounding it.
Inhabited since prehistoric times, it became the biggest sanctuary to the Blessed Virgin Mary in medieval Christendom. Miracles have been recorded since the 5th century, and a shrine was built in 480, where the cathedral now stands. In 951, the archbishop Godescalc set off from Le Puy-en-Velay to Santiago de Compostela. As the first French pilgrim, he mapped the route that is still taken today.
The colourful city of Puy-en-Velay sits on the most impressive spot. The cathedral and Hôtel-Dieu, both protected by UNESCO, are situated high on the hill while the chapel Saint-Michel is perched on a rocky peak with 268 steps to reach the top. It became a hugely popular pilgrimage site from the 12th century, welcoming 13 kings including Charlemagne and Saint Louis. Saint Louis is actually said to have given the first Black Madonna statue to Le Puy-en-Velay, which he brought back from the 7th Crusade.
The large statue of Notre Dame de France was inaugurated in 1860 in front of a crowd of 120,000 people. The dimensions are staggering: 22,5m high weighing 835 tons.
The town of Le Puy-en-Velay is also internationally renowned for its traditional lace and its green lentil
s, the famous “lentille verte du Puy”.
Message and Pilgrimage
People gather at Le Puy-en-Velay to relieve their suffering and find hope by praying to the black statue of the Madonna. Reaching the top is a symbol of rebirth. Believers and non-believers also start their spiritual or emotional journey here, at the starting point of the Road to Compostela.
The Cathedral and Hôtel-Dieu
Walk through the Italian-feel city up the 134 steps to the cathedral, sheltering the statue of the Black Madonna and take a look inside the beautiful building of the Hôtel-Dieu, also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Light and sound show
At dusk from May to September, the buildings of the city come alive with colourful light projections for a magical experience.
Forests, hills, rivers and volcanoes…In the wilderness of this pristine environment, all kinds of activities are on offer : hiking, cycling, rafting, rock-climbing…
A spiritual journey on the Road to Compostela
For a day, a week or even for the entire route to Santiago de Compostela, find your inner balance again and make the most of the beautiful scenery.
May to early October
Light show “Puy de Lumières”
A poetic and magical experience at dusk with lights projected onto the cathedral and buildings throughout the city.
- Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Feast of the Assumption celebrates the ascent to heaven of Our Lady. Around 10,000 people gather every year at Le Puy-en-Velay to participate.
- Classical music festival – Festival de la Chaise-Dieu
Part of the internationally famous Festival de la Chaise-Dieu, concerts are held in Le Puy-en-Velay.
Renaissance Festival – Le Roi de l’Oiseau
Dressed in period costumes, the town puts together a tournament to find the best archer in the city. Wonderful, colourful and a unique event for the whole family.
Hot-air balloon festival
A beautiful experience in the air or on the ground with dozens of colourful hot-air balloons taking off and drifting over this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To find out more about visiting and staying at Le Puy-en-Velay