Millau

                         

Millau Viaduct, tallest cable-stayed bridge in the world                       Nearby underground Roquefort cheese caves

 

History

Millau is a commune in the Aveyron department in the Midi-Pyrenees region in southern France. It is located at the confluence of the Tarn and Dourbie rivers.  It has approximately 22 000 inhabitants and in modern times has become most famous for its Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world and the nearby underground Roquefort cheese caves.

By the 1st century AD there was a settlement on the spot, identified by Dieudonne du Rey late in the 19th century as Condatomagus, which was the major earthenware centre in the Roman Empire, La Graufesenque.  This major Roman site supplied most of the best pottery right across the Roman Empire for 150 years. It was not in the centre of the town but sat on the right bank of the River Tarn 800 metres (2,600 ft) away.  Yet even today, with much major new development, the centre of the old Roman and medieval town on the opposite (left) bank of the Tarn remains poorly excavated, and the newly renovated Maison du Peuple, almost on the site of the old Roman forum, saw no archaeology before major mechanical excavation for recent new very deep foundations.  Surprisingly, the local museum sits almost adjacent to this site.

In the Middle Ages the town had one of the major mediaeval bridges across the River Tarn. With 17 spans, if it were still standing it would be a major monument; but one poorly maintained span fell in the 18th century, and so the bridge was mostly demolished.  Just one span remains, with a mill, now an art gallery, as testament to this significant trading route from north to south across pre-Renaissance France.

In 1999, José Bové, a local Larzac anti-globalisation activist demolished the Millau McDonalds as it was being built, in symbolic protest of the spread of fast food, Americanization, and the spread of 'Genetically Modified Organisms/crops' (GMO).  The McDonalds was later rebuilt, and Bové received a Presidential pardon from then French President Jacques Chirac.

In the 21st century, clear of traffic jams, the town is a tourist centre with one of the largest touring campsites in central France, and it is a major centre for sporting activity.

 

The Millau Bridge

The Millau Viaduct, the tallest cable-stayed road bridge in the world, which carries the A75 autoroute across the valley of the River Tarn near Millau, relieves the town of much traffic, especially during the summer months.

 

Sights and places of interest

  • The glove museum.   The town is best known for its sheepskin gloves, for which it led the French fashion industry for two centuries.
  • The Jardin botanique des Causses, a botanical garden
  • The Place du Maréchal Foch, a square with 12th century arcades, one of which carries the inscription Gara qué faras or Watch what you are doing
  • Église Notre-Dame-de-l'Espinasse. This church allegedly once possessed a part of the Crown of Thorns, making it an important pilgrimage centre in the Middle Ages. The church was destroyed in 1582 but rebuilt in the 17th century. The frescoes from 1939 are by Jean Bernard, the stained-glass windows from 1984 by Claude Baillon.
  • The Passage du Pozous is a 13th century fortified gateway
  • The Belfry, a 12th century square tower topped by an octagonal 17th century tower on the place Emma Calvé
  • Millau is the main centre in France for paragliding
  • Micropolis; the city of insects, is at nearby Saint-Léons
  • The nearby underground caves for Roquefort cheese production

 

Necklace from the Bronze Age – Dolmens de Peyrolevado, Millau – Muséum de Toulouse

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