Périgueux

The modern city of Périgueux sits on the
site of ancient Vesunna. Founded in
about 16 BC, this Gallo-Roman settlement
fell into a decline from around the 4th
century onward. During the Middle Ages,
a new community sprang up, concentrated
around the present Église de la Cité and
the Château Barrière, but it was largely
overshadowed in importance by Le Puy-Saint-
Front to the north, which thrived by serving
the needs of pilgrims on the road to
Santiago de Compostela. After years of hostility
between the two towns, peace was finally made
in 1240. During the Renaissance, Périgueux began
to grow, spreading out from the area around the
cathedral, which remains the hub of the city to this day.

 

Vesunna
Parc de Vésone. Tel (05) 53 53 00
92. ¢ Jan, Christmas and out of
season: Mon. & 8
This museum is named after
the ancient city that occupied
the site of modern Perigueux.
The artworks and everyday
objects on show give an
insight into daily life in Gallo-
Roman times. A building by
the architect Jean Nouvel
(1945–) covers the remains of
a Roman house discovered in
1959. Nearby is the imposing
Tour de Vésone. Some 24m
(80ft) high and with an
internal diameter of 17m
(56ft), it gives an idea of the
size of the temple, long gone,
of which it formed part. The
Jardin des Arènes contains the
remains of an amphitheatre
that held 20,000 spectators.

Château Barrière
Rue de Turenne, outside only.
For centuries this 12th-century
castle served as a fortress for
the aristocratic families of the
Périgord. It was remodelled in
the 15th century and came
under attack from Protestant
forces in 1575, during the
Wars of Religion. The oldest parts – a Gallo-Roman wall
and keep – can be seen at the
rear. The elegant five-tiered
tower and residential quarters
date from the Renaissance.

Cathédrale Saint-Front
Place de la Clautre.
The Byzantine-Romanesque
elements of Saint-Front, a
cathedral since 1669, were
added by Paul Abadie, later
architect of the Sacré-Coeur in
Paris. He added the five
domes and installed 17 small
steeples. The interior has a
magnificent 17th-century
Baroque altarpiece and
Stations of the Cross by
Jacques-Émile Lafon. The
remains of the old bell tower
are kept in the cloisters. In
summer, organ recitals are
given, on the 1869 organ.

Église de la Cité
Place de la Cité.
Périgueux’s first cathedral,
the Romanesque, single-nave
Église Saint-Étienne-de-la-Cité,
was built in the 11th century
and remodelled in the 17th,
when it also lost its cathedral
status. It still has two of its
four original domes.

Tour Mataguerre
Place Francheville. Tel (05) 53 53
10 63. &
Of the 28 towers that once
surrounded Le Puy-Saint-Front,
only this one still stands. The
tourist office next door
organizes tours of this vestige
of the fortifications that
encircled the city from the 12th to the 19th centuries.
The top of the tower offers a
breathtaking view of Périgueux.
Some of oldest buildings in
the city can be found nearby.
Among them are the 12thcentury
Maison des Dames de
la Foi, at 4–6 rue des Farges.

 

Musée d’Art et
d’Archéologie du Périgord
22 cours Tourny. Tel (05) 53 06 40 70.
# Wed–Mon (Sat–Sun: pm only).
¢ public hols. &
This museum, which in some
respects resembles a cabinet
of curiosities, holds a large
and fascinating prehistoric
collection. This includes the
world’s most complete
Neanderthal skeleton, found
at Régourdou. In addition,
beautiful glass, mosaics and
earthenware from ancient
Vessuna, as well as artifacts
from Africa and Oceania, can
be seen, along with a display
of local paintings, sculptures
and pottery, bequeathed by
Étienne Hajdu (1907–96).
Regular temporary exhibitions
are also held here.

 

Musée Militaire
32 rue des Farges. Tel (05) 53 53 47
36. # Apr–mid-Dec: pm Mon–Sat;
mid-Dec–Mar: pm Wed, Sat. &
There are around 13,000
exhibits in this museum, the
oldest of its kind in France.
One room houses a moving
series of drawings made in the
trenches during World War I
by Gilbert-Privat (1892–1965),
winner of the Prix de Rome.
The colonial and World War II
collections, as well as medals,
insignia and other wartime
memorabilia, help serve as a
reminder of the sacrifice of
those who fought, and of the
need to preserve the peace.

 

TRUFFLES
The Périgordian truffle, Tuber melanosporum, is a highly
prized delicacy that, for gourmets, is almost worth its
weight in gold. An ingredient of many local specialities,
this subterranean fungus is now scarce. In 1870, Sorge’s
limestone plateau alone produced 6 tonnes of truffles a
year, which equals the
yield obtained today
from the whole of the
Dordogne. The main
truffle market takes
place at Sainte-Alvère, in
the Bergerac region. The
going price is usually
€600 per kilogram
(about £400 per lb).

Écomusée de la Truffe
Sorges. Tel (05) 53 05 90 11.
# Tue–Sun (Jul–mid-Sep: daily).

 

 

Environs
Sorges, northeast of Périgueux,
is the Périgord’s truffle capital.
The Écomusée de la Truffe has
displays showing how truffles
grow, the methods of finding
them, and details of some
spectacularly large examples.