Visit Thiers (Auvergne, France)
Thiers is located east of Clermont-Ferrand, in the Puy-de-Dome department of the Auvergne. The sombre air of medieval Thiers, still the home of the Sabatier knife, belies its centuries of international fame as the capital of French cutlery manufacturing.
On the edge of the mountains of the Bois Noirs, 800 metres high and beside the ravine of the fast flowing river Durolle that, in the past, powered the grinding wheels of the cutlery factories, Thiers looks over the Limagne plain across to the Chaîne des Puys. It is a spectacular view.
The approach up or down the zigzag road to the medieval centre on the hill is a little depressing as this once wealthy, busy and flourishing town with its little cutlery workshops has become rundown. The steepness of the streets and the problems of building and rebuilding have meant that it has been easier in recent years to build homes, shops and offices at the foot of the hill. In the medieval centre small cutlery, food and clothing shops remain but on the outskirts shops have closed down, their trade taken over by the supermarkets at the bottom of the hill.
However, especially for those interested in medieval architecture or industrial history it is worth persisting until you come to the very remarkable medieval centre. A tour of the narrow streets takes you past magnificent stone doorways, under bridges built between upper floors that connect stone and timber buildings in the local style. These buildings, many of which have their original interiors still intact, were constructed in the 14th and 15th Centuries and belonged to wealthy merchants who sent paper and cutlery all over Europe. All this is evidence of the prosperity of Thiers at the time, a prosperity that continued into the 18th century. Even before the war Thiers was still a thriving place.
There is much religious history to be explored in Thiers. There are three main religious buildings. The Church of St Genés, originally built in 575 and rebuilt in the 12th Century, is noted for having the largest nave and dome of all the Romanesque churches in the Auvergne. The church of St-Jean, which overlooks the factories in the Durolle valley, was built in the 15th Century in Gothic style and reflects a time of prosperity. Then there is the Abbey of Saint-Symphorien, built in the 10th and 11th centuries and restored in the 19th Century.
Perhaps the most dramatic aspect of Thiers, however, is the ‘Valley of the Factories’. Many of the old factories and workshops still stand on the banks of the Durolle. In the season you can take a guided tour but out of season you can collect a leaflet from the tourist office and follow one of the itineraries that take you down out of the centre to discover the industrial history of Thiers, a history dominated by the cutlery trade which, in the 19th Century, took over from the tanneries and paper mills. This walk in conjunction with a visit to the cutlery museum is very illuminating.
We have lived near Thiers for the last five years and have become aware of a revival, a renewed pride in the history of the town and the area around. It really is a rewarding place to visit but maybe best in good weather.
Photos of Thiers
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Tourist classifications for Thiers
Thiers is classified as a historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé)
Address: Thiers, Puy-de-Dome, Auvergne, 63300 || GPS: latitude 45.857, longitude 3.5483
Map of Thiers & places nearby
Highlights close by
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Thiers, France
- Aulteribe Chateau - national monument (10km)
- Parc du domaine royal de Randan - remarkable garden (23km)
- Collégiale Saint-Victor et Sainte-Couronne d'Ennezat (Ennezat) - religious monument (25km)
- Vichy - ville fleurie 4* (31km)
- Abbatial church de Saint Pierre de Mozac (Mozac) - religious monument (33km)
- Riom - town of art and history (34km)
- Livradois-Forez - regional natural parc (34km)
- Cathédrale Notre Dame de l'Assomption (Clermont-ferrand) - religious monument (34km)
- Mozac - town of art and history (36km)
- Marsat - town of art and history (36km)
Market days in Thiers: Regular market(s) are held in Thiers each Thursday & Saturday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Thiers (Francais)