St Affrique, inhabited since the Neolithic
St Affrique is a charming and vibrant medieval town.
Protected by 7 hills, it spreads on the banks of the river Sorgues.
Many megaliths, dolmens and carved statues-menhirs, were found in the neighbouring villages.
These show that St Affrique and its region were already inhabited during the Neolithic.
The presence of a well preserved Roman Road attests also that, 2000 years ago, the town was already well developed.
This ancient road, Le Chemin des Crêtes, starts at the rear of the Fire Station.
It climbs into the forest then runs along the ridge of the surrounding hills. and leads to the south.
A large section is still visible.
It even still bears the elongated mark of the passage of carts wheels embedded in the paving stones.
Alfric, Bishop of Comminges
The name St Affrique might surprise you.
It has nothing to do with Africa!
The Bishop of Comminges, Affrique (Fric or Alfric or Affricanus) evangelized the region and founded the town in the 5th century AD.
The original village most likely spread at the foot of the Rocher du Caylus.
This promontory is one of the seven hills that surround the town.
It was also the site of the lords of Caylus’ medieval fortress, which was destroyed during the 13th century.
The medieval town
Texts dating from that period show that the town was already known as St. Affrique.
It was then the property of the Counts of Toulouse, who fortified it a century later during the Hundred Years War.
The region of Rouergue (the current department of Aveyron and therefore St Affrique) became English property with the Treaty of Brétigny in 1360.
Two centuries later, many inhabitants converted to Protestantism during the Wars of Religion.
However, they adopted an attitude of tolerance towards those who remained Catholic in order to avoid civil war.
This didn’t stop the troops of the Catholic Prince de Condé from attacking the city in 1628!
This attack failed, but King Louis XIII officially reinstated Catholicism in 1629 .
He also ordered the dismantling of all the Protestant fortified towns of the kingdom.
The ramparts of St Affrique were therefore demolished in 1655, except for two towers already incorporated in existing buildings.
The Boulevard Victor-Hugo and Boulevard de la République today replace the old moats.
What to see in St Affrique?
The town began to modernize during the 19th century.
An epidemic of cholera disseminated the population of St Affrique in 1854.
As a result, many facades since have small alcoves with votive statues of the Virgin in order to protect people from another epidemic.
Construction of the Pont Neuf started during the French Revolution, hence its other name, Pont de la Liberté.
It opened to traffic in 1810.
The Pont Vieux dates from 1270 and was was listed Historical Monument in 1886.
It’s one indeed of the finest examples of medieval architecture in France.
The Pont du Centenaire was built in 1889 in order to celebrate the centenary of the Revolution.
Finally, the Pont de la Résistance was open to traffic in 1974.
The Gothic Flamboyant Notre-Dame-de-la-Miséricorde was consecrated in 1913.
It replaces the old church dedicated to St Affrique, and boasts a series of stained-glass windows that relate the Holy Man’s life.
You can’t miss its 71m high spire that peaks above the town roofs!
Dairy, sheep rearing and leather and textile industries were developed during the 18th century.
They generated jobs and therefore brought prosperity to the town.
Today, local industry is undoubtedly focused on breeding Lacaune ewes.
This breed is indeed renowned for its high production of milk, which is primarily used for the making of AOC Roquefort cheese.
A large number of residents of St Affrique therefore work in the caves in Roquefort or in the dairies in the valley.
A fountain decorated with statues of rams, on the town-hall square, symbolizes the importance of sheep farming.
St Affrique is worth a detour when visiting Aveyron!
Coordinates: Lat43.958190 – Long 2.887126