Figeac, a bastide listed as Ville d’Histoire

Figeac marks the boundary where the Lot, Aveyron and Cantal departments meet.

Saint-Sauveur Church in Figeac
Saint-Sauveur Church

It is indeed located at the junction of the Célé River with the N140, N122, D13 and D922 roads.

This old bastide is listed as Ville D’art et d’Histoire – City of Art and History.

The Regional Council of Midi-Pyrénées ranked it among the 18 Great Sites of the Region – Grand Sites de Midi-Pyrénées.

Figeac is also the place of birth of Jean-Francois Champollion, the Egyptologist who deciphered the Rosetta Stone.

Figeac, an affluent abbey along the Via Podensis

Figeac Medieval town
Medieval town

The Abbey of Figeac was founded in the 9th century along the Via Podensis, one of the sections of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

By the 11th century, the abbots became Governors of the town that developed around the abbey.

A stone obelisk marked the abbey’s territory at each cardinal point.

Two of these unusual octagonal obelisks or aiguilles (needles) are still standing.

The 14,5m tall Aiguille du Cingle marks the southern boundary and the 11,5m tall Aiguille de Nayrac-Lissac the western.

In the early 14th century, the abbey surrendered its rights over the town to King Philip the Fair who established a royal mint (Hôtel de la Monnaie).

Saint-Sauveur Church and Place de la Raison

Figeac Medieval town
Medieval town

St. Sauveur Church was built in the 11th century in order  to assist pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

It was extensively rebuilt and restored over the centuries.

The fortified Abbey of Figeac was severely damaged during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion.

The ramparts were pulled down in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The curved layout of the houses built on their site is the only clue of their past existence.

The Place de la Raison replaces the monastic buildings.

A stone obelisk, which pays tribute to the Egyptologist Champollion, marks its centre.

Medieval Figeac

The medieval town boasts a wealth of beautifully restored 13th/14th/15th centuries buildings.

One of Figeac’s landmarks is the 13th century Hôtel de la Monnaie.

Hôtel Balène in Figeac
Hôtel Balène

The Mint house or Oustal dé lo Mounédo in Occitan, is located on Place Vival.

Money was exchanged there, but the workshops were located in a nearby building.

The mansion’s ground-floor today accommodates the Tourist Office, and the first floor the Old Figeac Museum.

The 14th century fortress Château Balène was converted in order to house the Regional Centre of Contemporary Art.

Place Carnot is the former Place Basse, the village square and covered market or halle.

The metallic structure now houses outdoor cafes and restaurants and still is the heart of the medieval town.

Elegant turreted or half-timbered houses topped with soleilhos encompass the square.

Open attics or Soleilhos (Occitan for soleil – sun) are commonly found in Southern France.

Place Carnot in Figeac
Place Carnot

The 14th century Hôtel du Viguier and its square keep and watch tower are one of the most photographed buildings in Figeac!

The elegant mansion has been converted into a luxury hotel.

It is located in Rue Delzhens, formally known as Rue de la Viguerie, which leads to Notre-Dame-du-Puy Church.

Notre-Dame-du-Puy Church is located in Haut-Figeac district, and a stone’s throw from the Champollion Museum.

The Romanesque church was altered during the 14th then the 17th century and boasts a beautiful 17th century walnut altar.

Champollion Museum – Les Ecritures du Monde

The Musée Champollion – Les Ecritures du Monde was founded in the mansion where the Egyptology specialist was born.

Champollion Museum in Figeac
Champollion Museum

The windows of the facade were removed and replaced with an indoor golden wall covered with hieroglyphs.

The effect is absolutely stunning!

The museum is dedicated to writing.

It indeed traces its evolution through the centuries and cultures during the past 5,000 years.

It displays an interesting collection of memorabilia and various documents.

The key exhibit of course is a cast of the Rosetta Stone; the original is exhibited in the British Museum in London.

The mansion’s back courtyard was converted in 1991.

The Place des Ecritures is paved with a giant replica (14m x 7m) of the Rosetta Stone.

The American artist Joseph Kosuth created this magnificent black granite slab.

Jean-François Champollion

Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832), deciphered the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta stone in 1824.

Place des Ecritures in Figeac
Place des Ecritures

A gifted student, he mastered Ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Chaldean, Syrian and Arabic by the age of 15.

He lectured history at the University of Grenoble four years later.

The Rosetta stone was discovered in 1799, during the Napoleonic Campaign of Egypt in Rosette (Rachid in Arabic), a village located on the western branch of the Nile.

The fragment of stele, engraved in Ancient Greek, Cursive Script and Hieroglyphs, bore the text of a decree issued by Pharaoh Ptolemy V.

The English Thomas Young (1773-1829) incompletely and wrongly deciphered the text.

Champollion proved that the Greek and Cursive Script texts were identical and was therefore able to fully decipher the hieroglyphs.

Department of Lot
Coordinates: Lat 44.608288 – Long 2.032871

Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Hôtel de Balène

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