The remarkable town of St Flour grew around the tomb of the eponymous saint, an evangelist who preached in the Auvergne in the fourth century.
The best way to approach the town is from the east – from the A75 in fact. There are really two towns here.
Discovering St Flour
The lower town is a modern, busy place on the plain while the upper town is perched imperiously on a huge rocky upthrust overlooking the Ander and Lescure valleys.
The upper town is the one the tourists want to see and is a wonderful network of old streets and cranky buildings.
Like many small French towns and villages, the hub of St Flour is the main square – The Place des Armes. The buildings around the square were built using volcanic rock so do have a strangely dark aspect.
This is because the local rock is dark and sombre basalt, and so many of the buildings seem to have a gloomy façade.
But that belies the attractions of the town, not least the Gothic cathedral with its twin towers that rather dominate the countryside for some distance.
The former bishop’s palace is now the Hotel de Ville and houses an interesting museum about Haute Auvergne.
The Cathedral of St Peter is a little bleak but well worth a visit while you meander around the narrow streets of the upper town.
Where is St Flour?
You can find St Flour in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region of the Cantal department. The Auvergne region is highly attractive and St Flour is a nice base from which to explore the rolling landscapes which surround the town.
Things to do in St Flour
The Cathedral of St. Pierre In St Flour
If there is anything that France is famous for, it’s stunning historic cathedrals and when you visit St Flour, the cathedral here is a must see. Originally, it was built as a Roman basilica but over the years, a more gothic style has prevailed.
The cathedral is oozing with history after having been built way back in the 1300s. That said, the building was not entirely completed until the late 1400s which explains a shift in the architectural style over the ages.
Partway through the construction of the cathedral of St Pierre, in around 1396, there was a partial collapse. This was another reason that the style changed as the reconstruction was now overseen by a new bishop; one Hughes de Mahac. Further to this, additional naves and towers were added in the mid 1400s.
Since 1906, the cathedral has been deemed a historical monument and it has some truly exciting features for both the history lover and those looking for a religious attraction.
Originally, the cathedral of St Pierre was built as a dedication to both St Pierre (St Peter) and to St Florus. Today, the cathedral is the seat of the bishops of St Flour.
Inside the cathedral, there is a very interesting mural below the organ which depicts hell and purgatory. As you enter the cathedral, there is a large wooden statue of Christ which serves as one of the major attractions of the building.
Visitors can also enjoy looking at a relic made from bronze which contains the remains of St. Floro; this can be found in the chapel of the tomb.
Museums In St. Flour
When in St Flour, you simply cannot miss out on the plethora of museums that can be found here. When we say there are a lot, there are a lot. Far too many to cover in this short guide but let’s take a look at some of the most interesting.
One of the most famous and well visited museums in St Flour is the Haute Auvergne set in an Episcopal palace where you will find some wonderful exhibitions that pay homage to the history of the area.
Everything from religious artefacts to archeological discoveries, this is a must see when in St Flour.
The Museum of Agriculture is the perfect location to get to know the history of how the land here has been used over the years.
The museum is housed in a 17th century farmhouse and provides lots of educational information. For the kids, there are a selection of farmyard animals to add to the fun.
One of the areas around St Flour, Chaudes-Aigues, is known for its geothermal activity. In fact, homes and other buildings in the area have been naturally heated here for many years, right back to the 14th century.
The Geothermia museum showcases a range of exhibitions that detail how this renewable energy is used.
Set in a beautiful Renaissance building, the Alfred Douet Museum of Art and History is another must see cultural attraction in St Flour. The curated collection here was completely gathered by Alfred Douet and features paintings from between 1875 and 1952.
There are a range of different artists on show but many are of Italian or Flemish origin and you will also find a selection of sculptures that date as far back as the Mediaeval times.