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History of the Auvergne

Set among rolling hills and volcanic peaks, the Auvergne may appear little more than an innocuous region of subtle Gallic appeal; delve deeper into its heritage, however, and you will uncover a history of intrigue and fascination, stretching back through millennia and which traces the footsteps of civilisations whose flames, now faded, once burned brightly.

Roman conquest

Traces of human habitation within the Auvergne have been dated to 10,000BC, but it wasn’t until the Celts and the Arverni tribe established a stronghold among the region that distinct, lasting settlements would be founded. A powerful and organised Gallic tribe that fiercely maintained resistance against Roman incursions, the Arverni and its legendary leader, Vercingetorix, would ultimately succumb to the forces of Julius Caesar, with the fall of Gallic independence tumbling alongside.

Quickly subsumed into the then expanding Empire as part of the conquered territory of Aquitaine, it would be five centuries until the Auvergne would be released from the grip of the western Roman Empire, its prosperity leading to a struggle for dominion between feuding vassals, until the Franks conquered the area in 507.

Medieval growth

The early medieval period saw the Auvergne become pivotal to the Angevin Empire; its importance ensured it ultimately reverted to a royal domain towards the end of the 13th century. Romanesque abbeys, churches, and medieval castles – including Catherine de Medici’s Busséol Castle – soon appeared around the area of modern day Clermont-Ferrand and still stand to evoke this period of prosperity. And, while much of France experienced hardship from the Hundred Years’ War and epidemics, the seclusion of the Auvergne’s setting enabled the region to flourish as an agricultural province.

Connections to the past

Today, Auvergne retains connections with its past that are apparent for all to see. With a variation on the Occitan language – known as Auvergnat – still widely used, this region of exceptional natural beauty and compelling towns and villages is able to reach into the past and draw on a wealth of charm to beguile those in search of traditional French culture.