Montsalvy – Petite Cité de Caractère – Small City of Character

Montsalvy is located about 33km south of Aurillac.

Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy - the wool-spinner
The wool-spinner

It is right in the heart of La Châtaigneraie, a superb area of Cantal in the southwest of the Auvergne.

Indeed, some 2000 years ago, the Romans planted the area with châtaigniers or chestnut trees.

Hence its name of châtaigneraie – chestnut grove.

Montsalvy boasts also an exceptional architectural heritage, which earned it the label of Petite Cité de Caractère – Small City of Character on December 10, 2014.

The purpose of this national organization is to safeguard and enhance local heritage, and here’s what the charter states:

Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy - Salers cows
Salers cows

“la Charte de Qualité des Petites Cités de Caractère, pierre angulaire du concept, engage les communes à mener une politique active de sauvegarde, d’entretien et de restauration de leur patrimoine, ainsi que de mise en valeur, et de promotion auprès des habitants et des visiteurs.”

This basically translates as:

According to the rules of the Quality Charter, the Small Towns of Character agree to undertake an active policy of protection, maintenance, restoration and development of their heritage, and promotion with locals and visitors.

And this is exactly what Montsalvy does!

Basketry, a traditional activity of Cantal

Montsalvy is nestled in the heart of the vast forest of chestnut… and hazelnut!

Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy - Lauzes - slabs used for roofing
Lauzes – slabs used for roofing

For centuries, these trees provided the timber needed for building and heating.

However, they also provided branches for making utilitarian objects such as baskets in order to transport animals and vegetables to the market.

Lumberjacks the day, the inhabitants therefore became weavers in the evening.

They turned basketry into a traditional crafts of Cantal.

Twenty years ago, one of the inhabitants of Montsalvy founded an association in order to revive and promote the art of basketry in Cantal.

Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy

The first Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy therefore took place in 1995.

However, an exhibition of woven items took place at the same time in order to intrigue and attract the public to this new venture.

Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy 0- The Clog-maker stall
The Clog-maker stall

As a result, the Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy was an instant success.

Over 2000 visitors indeed flocked to Montsalvy in order to see the 11 basket-makers demonstrate their ancestral knowledge.

The notoriety of the festival has never ceased to grow since.

It indeed reflects a very clear return to traditional know-how.

The Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy is an annual festival that takes place the last Saturday of July.

It is today considered one of the major festivals of basketry in France!

Over 80 amateur basket makers and weavers, from all over France, indeed attended the festival of July 2015.

I have not yet the official figures for 2016, but they were already 10,000 at the 2011 festival!

The range of weaved items exhibited at the Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy is becoming wider by the year.

Basketry is indeed regaining a prominent place in our everyday life.

Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy
Baskets for sale

More and more people get rid of non-recyclable and pollutant plastic bags, and rediscover the pleasure of owning and using a hand-made basket, created by talented artisans!

You’ll therefore find planters, hats, coasters, niches bread and rugs.

And of course, you’ll find baskets of all sorts and sizes, all made with chestnut, hazel, bramble, rattan, straw or wicker.

This festival is also an opportunity to discover other traditional activities of Cantal.

Indeed, stone-cutters proudly demonstrate their skills at cutting lauzes (local stone slabs) but also clogs-makers and wool spinners.

You’ll also have the opportunity to admire the beautiful Salers cows, whose milk produces the delicious AOC cheese.

The Fete des Paniers de Montsalvy is a Must See festival when holidaying in Cantal!

Department of Cantal
Coordinates: Lat 44.707294 – Long 2.500047

Credits: Photos by Le Gîte des Lutins, near Montsalvy

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