to the Loire regions
The villages of the Côte Roannaise present enough
points of interest for those passing through the region and these are
easily accessible for those who might choose to use the town of Roanne as
a base. The list below works on the premise that one is travelling down
the côte from the north, but it starts with a profile of the town of
than one hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Gallo-Romain city
of Rodumna was celebrated as a
centre for decorated pottery as long ago as the 2nd Century.
In the 11th Century the seigneurs
of Roanne built a fortress here which was occupied, at various times
through history, by the counts of Forez, Jacques Coeur and the dukes of
It is not the
most attractive of places, and has all the carbuncles one expects of an
industrial town. It was famous as a centre for cotton and textiles, the
town’s soft waters being ideal for dying the fabric, and in 1880, there
were 6,000 weavers employed in the city. It has long enjoyed its
privileged position as a staging post between north and south, the famous
N7 holiday route to the Midi runs right through the town.
In the last few decades, it has become known as the production centre for
France’s weapons arsenal, including the production of the Leclerc battle
tank. But more than anything, Roanne is famous for its gastronomy, being
home to Maison Troisgros.
A pretty medieval ‘city’ with an impressive
panorama, Le Crozet is situated at the northern end of the Monts de
Madeleine. From the Tour de Guet, the 12th Century keep near
the church, one has commanding views over the adjoining mountains.
is a distinguished looking village full of charm and character which sits
on a slope. The theory is that it takes its name from the Gallic tribe of
the Ambivarètes. Benedictine
monks established an abbey here in 938 although it was ‘downgraded’ to
a priory in 1101 by Saint Hugues, the Abbot of Cluny.
The church, with its coloured tile roof, dates from around the same
period and contains one of the finest alter pieces in France. Of Flemish
origin, it was erected in 1466 and carved from walnut. Its gilded panels
depict the Kiss of Judas, the painting being attributed to Rogier van der
Wayden. From the same period, there are five impressive stained glass
windows to be seen in the apse.
village hosts a market each Thursday morning.
– Alice Taverne
Rue de la Grye
T: +33 4 77 65 60 99
This museum, dedicated to the arts and traditions of
the Forez, was established by Alice Taverne (1904 – 1969) and is an
historic account of life in the region in the first part of the 20th
Century. Open every day from February to November.
well preserved fortified, medieval village of six hundred people is
anchored on a granite promontory with commanding views across the plaine
de Roanne to the east and faces the Monts de la Madeleine to the west.
In the Middle Ages, it was the capital of the comtes de Forez, and as
such, the most important commercial centre in the region until it was
supplanted by Roanne in 1677. Its half timbered houses date from 15th
and 16th Century, and at the very top of the village one finds
a beautifully simple Romanesque church which dates back to the 12th
Renaison is pretty dull and uninteresting in
comparison to some of the other neighbouring wine villages, but its
importance lies in the fact that it is the viticultural focal point of the
Côte Roannaise, being at the very centre of the vineyards which run north
and south from here. The town is centred on its market square (its market
is on Saturday’s) although it also hosts a covered market that is open
everyday except Monday. It is the quality of the permanent stalls here,
such as Pralus, the chocolatier (see eating and drinking), that make it a worthy detour
in order to pick up essential provisions.
Sabots de Renaison
On the road up to the cellar of Robert Sérol, one
passes the workshop of Daniel Drigeard, artisan of bespoke clogs, known
throughout France as sabots. Every so often it’s still possible to see
the older generation of French paysan tottering around in a pair. His
workshop and showroom is open for viewing from May to September.
+ 33 4 77 64 25 66
More famous for its naturally effervescent mineral
water than for wine, its thermal springs have been recognised since the
time of the Romans and its waters have been exploited commercially since
1605. In the 19th Century the Grand-Hôtel was built as a
thermal spa and casino. Today, it is still a pleasant walk up through the
village, situated in a side valley, following the river up towards its
sources in the Monts de la Madeleine. On the edge of the village, one
finds Les Eaux de Saint-Alban. They have been bottling and selling the
water since 1815.
fortified village, with its half timbered 13th Century houses,
sits on the site of a prehistoric encampment with a privileged position
overlooking the Loire gorge and is otherwise distinguished for its barrage.
VILLEREST AND ITS BARRAGE
Plans to erect a dam at Villerest were first drafted at the start of the
1900s, but opposition from the local inhabitants saw the project shelved.
Construction on this 600 metre high, half a kilometre long block of
concrete began in 1978, despite ongoing objections and became operational
in 1984. The dam was built to combat low water levels on the Loire, such
as in the drought year of 1976, or help to control the rivers flow and
prevent flooding downstream, as in 1856. It also contributes to the
Electricité de France (EDF) network, as well as providing cooling for two
nuclear power stations. The design is slightly curved to help reinforce
its strength and stability in containing some 130 million cubic metres of
water. What was once a twisting gorge is now the Lac
de Loire, a 33 kilometre stretch of water, which now attracts sailing
enthusiasts and hosts a range of other leisure activities.
Beyond the dam, the Loire passes swiftly through the end of the gorge as
well as the 300 metre contour line, and starts to develop into the placid,
broad and steady river we believe it to be.
two villages co-existed as settlements on the edge of the Loire gorge in
Gallo-Romain times. Saint-Jean is built around a Benedictine priory
established in the 12th Century; its bell and tower being
incorporated in 1874, whilst Saint-Maurice stands on top of a rocky
escarpment and offers amazing views over the still water of what is now a
lake, although the scene just three decades ago would have been of the
deep, looping Loire gorge. This was once a treacherous part of the river,
with the water tumbling down a steep gradient as it fell towards the city
of Roanne. Such was the notoriety of this section that the old mariners
had names for all the most dangerous points - Black Rock, Stairway, the
Wolf - and would offer a prayer to a stone cross erected on the hill above
before attempting the Saut de Perron,
the most challenging set of rapids.
From the village above, it was once possible to descend to the bottom of
the gorge to the pont romain.
Neither a bridge nor from that era, it was a fortified, medieval outpost,
erected most probably, for collecting taxes from the mariners who moored
here prior to navigating the gorge. A document written in 1340 already
stated that it was an abandoned ruin.
Within Saint-Maurice itself, there is a 12th Century dungeon,
which is all that remains of the château that once stood there, although
evidence of the medieval ramparts that protected the village is
everywhere, incorporated into the houses built in crags in the granite
rock and alongside cobbled passages.
church also dates back to the 12th Century and consists of a
rectangular barrel vaulted room and is decorated with frescos. They were
discovered in 1913 as the church underwent renovations. They had been
hidden, but well preserved, for centuries under a layer of plaster and are
considered to be some of the finest illustrations of 13th
Century sacred art. Each scene needs to be viewed in sequence, as there
are several panels which unfold into the story of Adam and Eve, replete
with images of heavily laden vines. One fresco, rediscovered next to a
window, depicts a pilgrim on the route of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle,
thus proving Saint-Maurice was a stop-over point on the journey from Cluny
and Eve fresco
Office de Tourisme du Grand Roanne
Place Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny
T: + 33 4 77 71 51 77
F: + 33 4 77 71 07 11
Syndicat d’Initiative de la Côte Roannaise
T/F: + 33 4 77 62 17 07