Saint-Girons

The Foix - St Girons greenway

The Foix to St Girons greenway, an ideal site for a stroll or a ride, provides 42 kms of track for those wishing to take advantage of the Ariege environment, away from the roars of motorised engines. Set over a disused railway track, the greenway winds between the countries of Foix and Couserans, in the heart of Seronais. The Ariege General Council, who funded the works undertaken between 2008 and 2012, held a great celebration in May for the inauguration of the greenway. The track starts from Vernajoul, 3 km from Foix and is both very practical and secure as underpasses have been installed when it crosses roads. Going westwards, at the foot of the Pyrenees, the course starts in the shade and opens up on the valley, offering beautiful views until la Bastide de Serou. Beyond, the greenway follows a pretty valley and crosses two tunnels before heading back towards the valley.

Web sites

At the start of the green way, the viaduct of Vernajoul, an impressive building in a superb site - © AF3V/J. Savary.Vernajoul cycling school opens up (21 mars 2009) - © AF3V/J. Savary.Panoramic view of the green way - © AF3V/J. Savary
5 previous stages
Population: 7,100
Sub-prefecture of Ariege (09)
Specialities: confits, garbure (soup), cheese (bethmale, moulis)
Economy: paper, tourism
Sport: St Girons RC (rugby union)
Celebrities: Roger Fauroux (former mayor and minister), Patrice Bonnet (architect)
Culture: Foire-Exposition de l'Ariege et du Couserans, Theatre Festival.
Labels:  ville ambassadrice du Telethon 2008.

Timeline

  • Roman era

    Saint-Girons is linked to St Lizier, a defensive site established by the Romans under the name of Lugdunum Consoranorum. St Lizier will have a bishop see until the Revolution.
  • 407

    Martyrdom of St Girons, a vandal converted to the Christian fait by St Sever. An oratory is created in his honour on the banks of the Salat. Two priories are later created by Benedictines.
  • 1120

    The sack of St Lizier by Bernard de Comminges leads to the development of St Girons. The viscounts of Couserans build their castle and walls protect the city against raids from Aragon soldiers. The Middle-Ages see a constant struggle between St Girons, home of the viscounts, and St Lizier, home of the bishop.
  • 1300

    Villefranche develops on the left bank of the Salat and will become a part of St Girons during the Revolution.
  • 1309

    Religious orders settle in Ariege to counter the Cathar heresy. Dominicans settle in St Girons.
  • 1576

    The city is occupied by Huguenots.
  • 1721

    St Girons is destroyed by fire.
  • 1872

    Construction of the cigarette paper factory JOB.
  • 1880

    The railway station opens. Creation of the Ledar paper-mills.
  • 1940

    The Couserans region becomes one of the main passage ways towards Spain. Locals helped some 2,300 people cross the border while 650 Jews were detained in Aulus-les-Bains in 1941 and 1942.
  • 1970

    The railways closes down and the car replaces the train.
The railway station and travellers in 1910, old postcard, Phototypie Labouche frères ToulouseLeft bank of the Salat in Saint-Girons, Ariège - © Eugène Trutat
5 previous stages
Population: 7,100
Sub-prefecture of Ariege (09)
Specialities: confits, garbure (soup), cheese (bethmale, moulis)
Economy: paper, tourism
Sport: St Girons RC (rugby union)
Celebrities: Roger Fauroux (former mayor and minister), Patrice Bonnet (architect)
Culture: Foire-Exposition de l'Ariege et du Couserans, Theatre Festival.
Labels:  ville ambassadrice du Telethon 2008.

Web sites

Saint-Girons and cycling

At a crossroads between eighteen different valleys, St Girons has often seen the Tour de France ride past. Luis Leon Sanchez scored a great victory in town in 2009. But St Girons was also often the start of mountain stages in the Pyrenees. In 1995 like in 2003, the roads to Cauterets and Loudenvielle helped Richard Virenque collect points for the polka-dot jersey. Yet the Tour faced a tragedy that day in 1995 when Fabio Casartelli died in the descent of Portet d'Aspet.  Expect for the first stage it hosted as a start in 1984 – victory by Pascal Poisson in Blagnac -, St Girons was always a launching pad for climbers as the next three finishes took place in three hot spots of the Pyrenees, Luz Ardiden in 1988 (Laudelino Cubino), Cauterets in 1995 (Richard Virenque) and Loudenvielle in 2003 (Gilberto Simoni).
A former yellow jersey holder, Frederic Moncassin, also winner of two stages in 1996, now lives near St Girons where he opened a restaurant named after a road sign he used to relish: "La Flamme rouge".

Luis Leon Sanchez sins stage Andorra La Vieilha – Saint Girons in Tour de France 2009 - © Presse Sports/B.PaponMemorial plaque to Fabio Casartelli, Col de Portet - © Peter Krsko
5 previous stages
Population: 7,100
Sub-prefecture of Ariege (09)
Specialities: confits, garbure (soup), cheese (bethmale, moulis)
Economy: paper, tourism
Sport: St Girons RC (rugby union)
Celebrities: Roger Fauroux (former mayor and minister), Patrice Bonnet (architect)
Culture: Foire-Exposition de l'Ariege et du Couserans, Theatre Festival.
Labels:  ville ambassadrice du Telethon 2008.

Web sites

Places to see

St Girons church:

Built in 1857 by Auguste Tisne on the site of a 14th century church, of which only the tower remains, it is topped by a spire decorated with wolf heads. Inside can be seen paintings by Spanish artist Alonso Cano.

St Valier church:  

It is thought to have been built by monks in 1138. Its main portal, placed inside the porch, dates from the time while its tower was built in the 16th century. Inside can be found a sarcophagus in which was buried Valier, the first bishop of Couserans.

The 1900 classroom

The 1900 classroom in the old school of the Jacobins is the reconstitution of a classroom  with its wood stove, its tables, geography maps and old books.

Path of freedom

Between Saint-Girons and Esterri de Aneu (Spain), the path follows the itinerary used by the refugees feeling to Spain during WWII.

St Lizier cathedral:

Built in the 9th century, the cathedral of St Lizier houses remarkable Romanesque frescos. The cathedral and the cloister are listed as World Geritage sites by UNESCO as stages on the St James Way.

Saint-Girons church - © Ville de Saint-GironsSaint Valier church - © Ville de Saint-GironsCastle of the Viscounts - © Ville de Saint-GironsOld Bridge - © Ville de Saint-GironsThe green way near Saint-Girons - ©AF3V/J. Savary
5 previous stages
Population: 7,100
Sub-prefecture of Ariege (09)
Specialities: confits, garbure (soup), cheese (bethmale, moulis)
Economy: paper, tourism
Sport: St Girons RC (rugby union)
Celebrities: Roger Fauroux (former mayor and minister), Patrice Bonnet (architect)
Culture: Foire-Exposition de l'Ariege et du Couserans, Theatre Festival.
Labels:  ville ambassadrice du Telethon 2008.

Web sites

Aristide Berges and "white coal"

St Girons is located at the confluence of the Lez and the Salat, two rivers which played a major role in the history of hydroelectricity, as it was the son of a local paper-mill worker who developed the process and dubbed it  "white coal" as opposed to "black coal". Aristide Berges was born on the banks of  the Salat river in 1833. A graduate at the age of 19, he developed several inventions like a drill to spread asphalt around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris or a process to make paper pulp more homogeneous that he installs in the St Girons mill in which his father worked.The St Girons-born researcher made his fortune in the Alps. Sent to Lancey to conceive a new paper-mill, he fell in love with the Belledonne massif and in 1891 built a plant powered by waterfalls. It produced more than 2,000 tons of paper pulp annually. At the Paris World Fair in 1899, Berges launched the expression that made him famous: "the mountain glaciers, used as power sources, could become for their regions and for the country as precious as the coal produced underground.  When you look at the thousands of power horses produced this way, glaciers are no longer glaciers but mines of white coal".
Berges died in Lancey in 1904 and was buried in Toulouse, at the foot of his native Pyrenees. In his hometown, his house was preserved and turned into a museum.

Aristide Bergès hydraulic engineer (1833-1904) – unknownAristide Bergès power plant in Lancey, near Grenoble (France), old postcard – Domaine public des Etats-Unis
5 previous stages
Population: 7,100
Sub-prefecture of Ariege (09)
Specialities: confits, garbure (soup), cheese (bethmale, moulis)
Economy: paper, tourism
Sport: St Girons RC (rugby union)
Celebrities: Roger Fauroux (former mayor and minister), Patrice Bonnet (architect)
Culture: Foire-Exposition de l'Ariege et du Couserans, Theatre Festival.
Labels:  ville ambassadrice du Telethon 2008.

Web sites

Jersey wearers after the stage 14

Classifications after the stage 14

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