Villefranche de Rouergue
Founded in 1252, by Alphonse de Poitiers, brother of the King Saint-Louis, Villefranche de Rouergue is located at the centre of a triangle formed by Albi, Cahors and Rodez. In the Middle Ages, it was considered as a new town, hence its name, strategically located. Its layout is quite typical of a bastide town, with streets crossing at right angles, converging towards a central square, bordered by arcades. This central square (Place Notre-Dame), was the actual economic heart of the town. Nowadays, it's hosting a very popular weekly farmers' market.
The city, rich in architectural heritage, retained its original medieval town plan, and its strong tradition of trading, and local products markets.
Crossed by the River Aveyron and located 250 metres above sea level, Villefranche, now 13,000 inhabitants, enjoys a particularly mild climate; this is not the Massif Central, but already the Midi Toulousain.
Not-to-miss are the followings;
- The old town centre, as Villefranche de Rouergue is a walled town. Notre Dame square and covered the college, and its bell tower, the medieval streets, merchants houses. All symbols of the fifteenth century, but moreover of the town's wealth.
- The Baroque style Chapelle des Penitents Noirs (Black Penitents Chapel). Its outside exterior retains simplicity; small, cross-shaped as a Greek cross, classical facade, elegant belfry. The wooden roof is painted in bright colors and a naive style refers to the worship of the Cross. The altar of carved wood, gold leaf, depicts scenes from the life of Christ.
- The Chartreuse Saint-Sauveur, built in 1452, away from the town, thanks to the testamentary bequest of Vesian Valletta, rich cloth merchant. Chartreuse Saint-Sauveur, had once a monks community, where discipline was all about full isolation, silence, and contemplative life. Beside the great cloister, the Carthusian monastery cloister has a small, richly carved, a definite Gothic style. The church, the Chapelle des Etrangers (Strangers Chapel), the vestibule, the chapter house, and refectory are all precious architectural relics from the late Middle Ages.
- La Collégiale and la Place Notre-Dame It took 300 years to build this building! Ended by the late fifteenth century, one can admire its Gothic style, and its large bell tower, on the central square (Place Notre-Dame).
- The weekly market on Place Notre-Dame.