Stage-town for the 16th time
Sub-prefecture of Haute-Garonne (31)
Population: 11,600 (Saint-Gaudinois and Saint-Gaudinoises), 44,200 in the 104 communes of the Communauté de communes Cœur & et Coteaux Comminges.
Specialities: veal reared under the mother, Pyrenean lamb, mounjetado (cassoulet), Napoléon commingeois (sheep's cheese), millasson (pastry).
Personalities: Pierre Berbizier, William Servat (rugby players), Élie Baup (footballer), Marie-Laure Brunet (biathlete), Pavel Sivakov (cyclist), Jacqueline Boyer (actress)
Sport : Racing Club Saint-Gaudinois Comminges XIII (rugby à XIII, Elite 1). Sportsmen and women: Laëtitia Grand, Pierre Berbizier, William Servat (rugby, French team), Élie Baup (football). Facilities: aqualudic complex, climbing wall, pumptrack tracks at Sède lake. Events : Route d'Occitanie (cycling), ITF World Tennis Tour for women.
Economy: paper mill, geophysical research
Festivals: Pronomade(s) (street arts, April), Comics Festival (May), Jazz en Comminges (June), Mountain Festival (October), Sing Go Gospel (November), Les Pyrénéennes (December). Concerts at the Cube.
Labels: fun and sports city, flower city
Websites / FB / Twitter / Insta: www.tourisme-stgaudens.com / www.stgo.fr / www.coeurcoteaux-comminges.fr / http://www.tourisme-occitanie.com/ / www.facebook.com/ville.saintgaudens / https://fr-fr.facebook.com/CCLa5C/ / @surSaintGaudens / https://fr-fr.facebook.com/TourismeOccitanie/ / https://twitter.com/Occitanie / https://www.instagram.com/tourisme_en_occitanie/?hl=fr
SAINT-GAUDENS, A STORY
The return of the stolen tapestries
August 30, 1661 is one of the main dates in the history of Saint-Gaudens since it marks the return to the collegiate church of the relics of the saint who gave his name to the town, which had been dispersed to escape looting and wars. September 26, 1997 could also become a date celebrated by the people of Saint-Gaudens, since it marked the return to the same collegiate church of two priceless Aubusson tapestries stolen by audacious burglars more than seven years earlier.
The Triumph of Faith, a copy of a painting by Rubens, and the Martyrdom of Saint-Gaudens, which recounts the legend of the saint who was beheaded by the Visigoths, disappeared during the night of December 20, 1989. Produced around 1760 by the Royal Aubusson Manufactory, the two works did not reappear until seven years later at an auction in New York at Sotheby's. It was an Aubusson documentalist who identified the stolen works by consulting the sale catalogue out of curiosity.
A long FBI investigation established the good faith of the seller and multiple negotiations between the American authorities and the French ministries involved made it possible to recover the stolen tapestries, no doubt in exchange for money. The poor shepherd Gaudens was thus able to return to his place of burial. As for the thieves, they are still at large...
SAINT-GAUDENS AND CYCLING
The Tour returns to Saint-Gaudens, one of the Pyrenean towns whose name is familiar to cycling fans. Last year, it was Austrian Patrick Konrad who took advantage of a successful breakaway to clinch the 16th stage from Andorra.
Some of the great mountain stages in the history of the Tour ended in St Gaudens, like in 1955 when Louison Bobet finally donned the Yellow Jersey making him the first winner of three consecutive Tours de France. It was also after a start in Saint-Gaudens that Lucien Van Impe, in 1976, left Joop Zoetemelk more than three minutes adrift, taking a firm option on the final victory in Saint-Lary-Soulan.
Situated at the crossroads of the different Pyrenean routes, the town has hosted nine stage finishes and twelve starts. In 1970, for example, Bernard Thévenet started from Saint-Gaudens to win his first stage in La Mongie.
In the 1976 edition, the Saint-Gaudens - Saint-Lary-Soulan stage was decisive in the fight for the Yellow Jersey between Lucien Van Impe and Joop Zoetemelk.
An outside chance at the start in Saint-Gaudens, the last Belgian winner of the Tour became the big favourite in Saint-Lary, where ski champion Isabelle Mir gave him a kiss on the podium. He made it clear his stage win was crucial: "This year, I am doing very well. I am not afraid. I think I will keep the jersey until the end". For Van Impe, some signs pointed towards victory: "When I’m in shape, I drink very little, it's bad for my stomach. This morning, I left Saint-Gaudens with only one water bottle. It is still half full..." he said.
In other recent visits to the city, Saint-Gaudens was the launchpad for Pyrenean stages won at Plateau de Beille by Jelle Vanendert in 2011, and then in Saint-Lary-Soulan by Rafal Majka in 2014.
Saint-Pierre collegiate church
Construction: 11th to 13th century
History: with its cloister and chapter house, it was an important religious building in Comminges. It housed a college of canons, a community of clerics created by Bishop Bertrand.
Characteristics: The 11th century Romanesque building, with a Pyrenean basilica plan and three naves, was built on top of an older building. It was enlarged with the construction of the cloister and the chapter house in the 12th and 13th centuries. The north side portal was built in the 16th century. This ensemble was restored, as was the bell tower, in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Special feature: it is known as one of the most beautiful churches on the route to Santiago de Compostela.
Listing: Historical Monument since 1840.
The Grand Prix du Comminges from 1922 to 1954
From the regularity race on the thermal spa circuit created in 1922, to the ultimate speed race in 1954, some of the most beautiful pages of automobile and motorbike sport have been written in this area by some of the most famous drivers. A glorious past to which the monumental grandstands lining the famous Côte de la Garenne facing the Pyrenees still bear witness, where legendary brands triumphed during the 18 car and 16 motorbike grand prix held in St Gaudens. Chiron, Williams, Etancelin, Sommer, Wimille, Villoresi, Pozzi, Ascari won on Bignan, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Talbot, Maserati, Delahaye, Ferrari, Monomill... The Comminges circuit also welcomed, in the 50s and 60s, stage finishes of the Tour de France. Today, the stands of the Circuit du Comminges still remain. A Circuit Museum traces the history of motor racing in Comminges.
The arboretum house
The Cardeilhac Arboretum is a 13-hectare open-air museum, nestled in the heart of the Cardeilhac forest massif, which covers 1,000 hectares of forest. A real French garden with its paths and plateaus, it offers more than a hundred species of trees from all over the world to discover. The Arboretum was created in 1913 by the Water and Forestry Department in order to test new forest species capable of replacing the Tauzin oak decimated by powdery mildew. It was conceived as the starting point for a profound remodelling of certain parts of the massif.
The Maison de l'Arboretum provides information for visitors to the Cardeilhac forest and for all nature lovers.
Monument of the three marshals
Author: Georges Guiraud
Characteristics: this marble monument pays tribute to Marshals Foch, Joffre and Galliéni, originally from the Pyrenees, combatants in the 1914-1918 war. It faces the war memorial created in 1923 by Paul Ducuing, a sculptor born in Lannemezan. Behind it, the orientation table offers a magnificent panorama of the Pyrenees and the emblematic peak of Cagire.
History: the monument to the three Marshals was inaugurated by former French President Vincent Auriol on October 20, 1951 on the initiative of the two municipalities of Valentine and Saint-Gaudens, in homage to the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Marshal Ferdinand Foch, who had grown up in Valentine.
Listing: Historical Monument since 2018.
The Saint-Gaudens Museum holds the most important public collection of Valentine's porcelain, with more than 500 pieces. From 1829, the Fouque-Arnoux family, earthenware makers from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (04), chose to settle in Saint-Gaudens on the banks of the Garonne, opposite the village of Valentine, to manufacture a new product: porcelain. The beautiful dark blues with which it was to be decorated led to its being nicknamed "Valentine blue".
From the Boulevard des Pyrénées, follow the pathway which allows you to start your journey in the shelter of large trees. Once you arrive at the roundabout, it's time to take a few minutes to look at the wrought iron coin, a reference to the old Comminges car circuit. You then join a path which goes around the lake and along the banks of the Garonne. A fishing pontoon is accessible to people with reduced mobility (2nd category fishing lake).
Every Wednesday at 8pm during the summer months, open-air concerts are organised for festive evenings.
Mounjetade, which takes its name from the Occitan word munjeto (white bean), is the Ariège version of cassoulet. It is also the traditional dish of Comminges and Saint-Gaudens.