An invitation for a stroll.
Your stroll through the bastide’s narrow streets will undoubtedly lead you to the central square, the heart of the town. A square lined by covered arcades characteristic of the bastides and by the enormous entrance porch of the Collegiate church.
Can you be here on a Thursday morning? If so, make the most of the market with its local colours and smells. Then, continue and enjoy the riches of the town’s architectural heritage.
Middle Age new town.
Like the château in Najac, Villefranche de Rouergue was founded in 1252 by Alphonse de Poitiers, Count of Toulouse and brother of king Saint Louis.
The town presents, on a large scale, the characteristic layout of new towns of the period, a grid of streets with a square in the centre where religious and public life was carried out. From Villefranche you can discover the circuit of the Aveyron bastides.
A rich architectural heritage.
The old centre of the bastide lets you discover Place Notre Dame and its couverts (arcades), the collegiate church and its powerful porch-bell tower, the mediaeval streets as well as the rich merchants’ houses whose doors and towers symbolised the social position of its inhabitants in the 15th century.
La Chartreuse Saint-Sauveur (charterhouse)
With its large cloister, one of the largest in France.
The Collegiate church
It was only at the end of the 15th century, after more than 300 years of work, that the collegiate church was at last finished.
Apart from the spectacular porch-bell tower that straddles the public street you will be able to admire its door before penetrating into the unique nave, characteristic of the southern Gothic style. It is right inside the church in the choir that the collegiate-church’s masterpiece is to be found: the stalls by André Sulpice. At number 62, these stalls illustrate the vision of the mediaeval world which mixes fantasy, earthiness and anecdotal scenes of everyday life. Climb the 163 stairs and admire the magnificent view of the town.
Chapel of the Pénitents Noirs
Baroque chapel with a very simple exterior: modest size, layout in the shape of a Greek cross, classic façade, elegant steeple; it does not surprise any less by the profusion of its interior décor! The wooden vault, painted in very bright colours and in a naïve style, makes reference to the cult of the Cross. The altarpiece in sculpted wood, covered in gold leaf, represents scenes of the life of Christ.
The southern influence.
Sous-préfecture of 13 000 inhabitants, on the banks of the river Aveyron and situated at an altitude of 825 feet, Villefranche benefits from a particularly mild climate.
This is where the south starts: the rooftops of the town proclaim it with their roman tiles.
During your stay, don’t miss the Thursday morning market in Place Notre Dame.