Archive for March 17th, 2018

March 17, 2018

Bourges, Cathedral and Jacques!

On a cloudy cool, and news of snow coming to Brittany but hopefully not mention the Morbihan and already almost 4 inches in Paris. I like to tell you about a nice town of memorable family visit. This post will be on my black and white series, no pictures.

We came to Bourges a while back , little known really when you are in the Valley of the Kings or now call Centre-Val de Loire. However, very nicely accessible and worth a detour me think.  Bourges is in the Department of the Cher 18 in the region of Centre Val de Loire ; been the historical capital of the Berry, a province in the monarchy corresponding about with today’s departments of Indre and Cher.  About 240 km south of Paris and located at the intersection of several rivers such as the Yévre, Voiselle, and affluents Auron, Moulon, and Langis.

The city center or downtown is divided in two sections surrounded by boulevards that allows you to go around it as in a beltway. This city center has the main shopping street , rue Moyenne and principal buildings including the Cathedral and the bus terminal to the train station  as well as several nice gardens such as the jardin de l’archevêché  (bishop) and jardin des Pré-Fichaux. The central crown around the town has several other buildings around the city center including the marshes or Marais de Bourges.

Some links to help your trip planning here:  SNCF Place du Général Leclerc:

TER train site :

The way I come is by car here taking from Paris the A71 (Orléans – Clermont-Ferrand) that puts Bourges in one hour to Orleans, 2h30 from Paris, 4h from Lyon. You can ,also take the A85 at Vierzon and go to Tours in about 1h30.

City of Bourges tourism page :

Tourist office of Bourges:

And the friends of the Cathedral site in French, with much info and way to help the maintenance of this magnificent Cathedral.

In this post , I like to tell you a bit about the history I like.

Before the Romans, this area was inhabited by Gallic people known as the Bituriges Cubes  , that I am told it means “kings of the world” . The uprising of the Bituriges against the Romans and their massacre by the Romans in 53 BC is a major item on the uprising strength of the Gallic people and their main leader Vercingétorix  against Jules Caesar. During the Gallic wars Caesar had several sieges against Bourges for long months. As in the rest of Gallia, Vercingétorix has implemented a tactic of burning and destroying everything before helping to supply the Romans.  The Gallic leader had defended Bourges with natural defenses such as hills around a river, and marshes as well as  a strong wall in the south.  From this wall, we come to the term later of calling the city, the red town (same as was name Le Mans). Caesar took the city anyway and massacre most of the inhabitants.

Bourges becomes the seat of the Bishops from where the dioceses of Albi, Cahors, Clermont-Ferrand , Mende, Puy-en-Vélay, Rodez, Saint Flour, and Tulle were attached. It was one of the first diocese founded by Saint Ursin in one of the first evangelical campaigns of the Gaulle around the 4C. The town ,then belonging to the kingdom of Aquitaine was taken by Charles Martel in 731AD ,then by Eudes of Aquitaine, Pépin le Bref took it in 762AD; destroying the walls ramparts and integrating it to the Royal domain under the care of the Counts; he builts a palace from the 767AD. Early on the 12C, Bourges becomes the seat of the Viscount until the last one Eudes d’Arpin in 1101AD sells the county to the king of France ,Louis VI to finance a crusade; the city enters the domain Royal, property of the Crown. In the 14C, the city of Bourges becomes the capital of the duchy of Berry that is given to Jean de Berry as a priviledge.  He is the third child of king of France Jean le Bon and brother of king Charles V. The dauphin , future king Charles VII of France finds refuge in Bourges and used the administration of the city put in place by his grand uncle ,the duke of Berry to be able to take control of his kingdom.

A major figure here and in France. Jacques Coeur son of curtain merchant and a famous citizen of the city of Bourges, worked with his father as supplier to the ducal court and has a fast rise to fame; also marries the daughter of the provost of Bourges, Macée de Léodepart. Later, participates in the making of currency money and becomes the financier of the king or supplier of the Royal court as well as developing an international commercial network enabling him to set up money counters and a navy. However, this fortune becomes too big and bring jealousy of the King which leads to the lost of it. He is condemn by Royal justice and becomes a fugitive, later bankrupt finding refuge with the Pope Nicolas V. All his properties were confiscated and sold for the profit of the king and he dies in exile in 1456. The most remarkable trace left in the city is that of the wonderful palais Jacques Coeur.  A must to visit.

Bourges has a long history of military stronghold. By 1860, it was chosen to be the center of army provisions under the Second Empire (Napoléon III) . From 1928  it has a strong presence of aeronautical industry here as well as a center of manufacture of land weapons.

Things to see here are plenty and very nice. The city is a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire in France (city of art and history of France). Of course , you must see the St Stephen Cathedral or Cathédrale Saint Etienne, recognize by Unesco as a World Heritage Site. The before mentioned Palais Jacques Coeur built by end 15C.  The marshes or marais de l’Yévre et de la Voiselle, family and culture gardens wonderful. The ruins of the Gallo Roman ramparts. The monumental fountain and Gallo Roman porch under the palace of the Duke of Berry as well as the rest of it today it is the Préfecture or regional government building. Walk around the Place Gordaine and the wooden houses from the 14C, the Grange des Dîmes from the 12C at rue Moliére near the Cathedral (storage of agro products until the French revolution). The Episcopal Palace or palais Archiepiscopal from the 17C, old city hall and a French style garden done by Le Nôtre , this is the jardin de l’Archevêché. The Canal de Berry on the river Auron.  Notre Dame Church mostly destroyed by fire in 1487, Church Saint-Pierre le Marché later dedicated to Notre Dame was rebuilt with several modifications and now you see different styles of architecture. And not that I go there, but many do, so there is the Cemetery des Capucins ,near the Cathedral done in 1792 to replace all the others done by other Churches.

The many nice museums here:  Musée du Berry ( archeology, arts and popular traditions) in the Hôtel de Cujas mansion.  Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle Gabriel Foucher, Musée Maurice Estève (dedicated to modernist painter Maurice Estève) in the Hôtel des Echevins mansion. Hôtel Lallemant mansion  (Renaissance style) with a museum on decorative arts; Musée des Meilleurs ouvriers de France (best craftmans of France). The muse de la Résistance et de la Déportation du Cher (museum of the resistance and deportation of the Cher).

The old Berry area is rich in gastronomy as where else in France! However, something unique to Bourges is the Forestine, this crisp and mellow candy contains a delicious praline of chocolate-flavoured almonds and hazelnuts under a layer of crunchy sugar, and the best is at the  Maison de la Forestine  at the Place Cujas. webpage here: Maison de la Forestine

There you go, you have Bourges as brief and clear as I can make it. Enjoy the Cher, the Berry and yes Bourges. Have a great Sunday or Saturday depending where you are. Happy travels, good health  to all. Cheers!

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