1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Clermont-Ferrand

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CLERMONT-FERRAND, a city of central France, capital of the department of Puy-de-Dôme, 113 m. W. of Lyons on the Paris-Lyon railway. Pop. (1906) town, 44,113; commune, 58,363. Clermont-Ferrand is situated on an eminence on the western border of the fertile plain of Limagne. On the north, west and south it is surrounded by hills, with a background of mountains amongst which the Puy-de-Dôme stands out prominently. A small river, the Tiretaine, borders the town on the north. Since 1731 it has been composed of the two towns of Clermont and Montferrand, now connected by a fine avenue of walnut trees and willows, 2 m. in length, bordered on one side by barracks. The watering-place of Royat lies a little more than a mile to the west. Clermont has several handsome squares ornamented with fountains, the chief of which is a graceful structure erected by Bishop Jacques d’Amboise in 1515. The streets of the older and busier quarter of Clermont in the neighbourhood of the cathedral and the Place de Jaude, the principal square, are for the most part narrow, sombre and bordered by old houses built of lava; boulevards divide this part from more modern and spacious quarters, which adjoin it. To the south lies the fine promenade known as the Jardin Lecoq.

The principal building is the cathedral, a Gothic edifice begun in the 13th century. It was not completed, however, till the 19th century, when the west portal and towers and two bays of the nave were added, according to the plans of Viollet-le-Duc. The fine stained glass of the windows dates from the 13th to the 15th centuries. A monument of the Crusades with a statue of Pope Urban II. stands in the Cathedral square. The church of Notre-Dame du Port is a typical example of the Romanesque style of Auvergne, dating chiefly from the 11th and 12th centuries. The exterior of the choir, with its four radiating chapels, its jutting cornices supported by modillions and columns with carved capitals, and its mosaic decoration of black and white stones, is the most interesting part of the exterior. The rest of the church comprises a narthex surmounted by a tower, three naves and a transept, over which rises another tower. There are several churches of minor importance in the town. Among the old houses one, dating from the 16th century, was the birthplace of Blaise Pascal, whose statue stands in a neighbouring square. There is a statue of General Louis Charles Desaix de Veygoux in the Place de Jaude. Montferrand has several interesting houses of the 15th and 16th centuries, and a church of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.

Clermont-Ferrand is the seat of a bishopric and a prefecture and headquarters of the XIII. army corps; it has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a chamber of commerce, an exchange and a branch of the Bank of France. The town is the centre of an educational division (académie), and has faculties of science and of literature. It also has lycées and training colleges for both sexes, ecclesiastical seminaries, a preparatory school of medicine and pharmacy, schools of architecture, music, commerce and industry, museums of art and antiquities and natural history and a library. A great variety of industries is carried on, the chief being the manufacture of semolina and other farinaceous foods, confectionery, preserved fruit and jams, chemicals and rubber goods. Liqueurs, chicory, chocolate, candles, hats, boots and shoes, and woollen and linen goods are also made, and tanning is practised. Clermont is the chief market for the grain and other agricultural produce of Auvergne and Velay. Its waters are in local repute. On the bank of the Tiretaine there is a remarkable calcareous spring, the fountain of St Allyre, the copious deposits of which have formed a curious natural bridge over the stream.

Clermont is identified with the ancient Augustonemetum, the chief town of the Arverni, and it still preserves some remains of the Roman period. The present name, derived from Clarus Mons and originally applied only to the citadel, was used of the town as early as the 9th century. During the disintegration of the Roman empire Clermont suffered as much perhaps from capture and pillage as any city in the country; its history during the middle ages chiefly records the struggles between its bishops and the counts of Auvergne, and between the citizens and their overlord the bishop. It was the seat of seven ecclesiastical councils, held in the years 535, 549, 587, 1095, 1110, 1124 and 1130; and of these the council of 1095 is for ever memorable as that in which Pope Urban II. proclaimed the first crusade. In the wars against the English in the 14th and 15th centuries and the religious wars of the 16th century the town had its full participation; and in 1665 it acquired a terrible notoriety by the trial and execution of many members of the nobility of Auvergne who had tyrannized over the neighbouring districts. The proceedings lasted six months, and the episode is known as les Grands Jours de Clermont. Before the Revolution the town possessed several monastic establishments, of which the most important were the abbey of Saint Allyre, founded, it is said, in the 3rd century by St Austremonius (St Stremoine), the apostle of Auvergne and first bishop of Clermont, and the abbey of St André, where the counts of Clermont were interred.