Main entrance facade of Cathedral of Notre-Dame du Puy, Le Puy-en-Velay, France.

© Rolf G Wackenberg/Shutterstock

Cathédrale Notre Dame


A chequerboard of grey and white stone perched on a volcanic stone crag, Le Puy's cathedral is the monumental starting point for pilgrims embarking on the French Way of St James route. An exquisite blend of architectural styles, the cathedral's entryway is framed by Romanesque arches. Inside are Roman-era frescoes, (some 5.5m high), Baroque statues, an organ dating to 1689, and one of the Auvergne’s most famous Vierges noires (black Madonnas).

The 11th-century black Madonna icon was replaced with a 17th-century statue after the original was publicly burned by revolutionaries in 1794. The 'new' model inspires much the same devotion among pilgrims.

The cathedral is predated by earlier places of worship on the same site, firstly a pagan shrine and later a Christian sanctuary.

It opens an hour later outside high season.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Auvergne attractions

1. Cathédrale Notre Dame Cloister

0.02 MILES

A peaceful 12th-century cloister adjoins Le Puy's cathedral, its multicoloured bricks and columns alluding to strong Moorish influences. Upstairs is a…

2. Musée Hôtel-Dieu

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Within this museum and cultural centre, the highlight is a 19th-century pharmacy, elegantly panelled in walnut and wild cherry wood. Upstairs, French…

3. Le Camino

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Interesting for armchair travellers, as well as committed walkers about to undertake the multiweek journey to Santiago de Compostela, this museum in the…

5. Notre Dame de France

0.12 MILES

At 16m tall and weighing a svelte 110 tonnes, this crimson Notre Dame de France (Virgin Mary) statue makes an imposing guardian over Le Puy. Since 1860,…

6. Chapelle St-Michel d'Aiguilhe

0.33 MILES

Le Puy's oldest chapel, first established in the 10th century, and rebuilt several times since, teeters atop an 85m-high volcanic plug, reached by…

7. Forteresse de Polignac

1.94 MILES

Sprouting from the sharp crags of a volcanic dome northwest of Le Puy, this late-11th-century castle was built by the powerful Polignac family, who once…

8. La Distillerie de la Verveine du Velay

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See how Le Puy's green fairy gets her magic on a 45-minute guided tour of the verveine liqueur distillery in St-Germain Laprade. From Le Puy, drive east…