As part of a series specially devoted to French sites recognized as UNESCO World Heritage, we invite you to discover one by one the exceptional French destinations, preserved as heritage of humanity. We begin this series with the first site recognized in 1979, the basilica and the hill of Vézelay.
C 'is in the heart of Burgundy that rises the hill of Vézelay capped of its typical village, its monastery and the Sainte-Marie-Madeleine basilica. This high place of Christianity from the Middle Ages remains today an important pilgrimage site on the road to Saint Jacques de Compostela. The hill and the abbey of Vézelay appear on the UNESCO World Heritage List, because the building represents "a masterpiece of human creative genius". It is also associated with events, faith and works "of outstanding universal significance".
A little history
Shortly after its foundation in the 1146th century, the monastery of Vézelay acquired the relics of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine. It then became a place of pilgrimage. In 1190, Bernard de Clairvaux preached the Second Crusade there. Richard Coeur-de-Lion and Philippe-Auguste met there at the start of the third crusade in XNUMX. The Sainte-Madeleine basilica, erected in the XNUMXth century, will become a masterpiece of Burgundian Romanesque art. Indeed, its architecture, its capitals and its sculpted portal placed between the nave and the narthex, are emblematic.
But the glorious era of Vézelay will gradually come to an end. The Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion will continue to weaken the city. Basilica will ultimately be saved much later by Prosper Merimee. He will also entrust the restoration of the building to the young architect. Viollet-le-Duc. Since 1993, the monastic fraternities of Jerusalem have been in charge of the spiritual animation of the basilica. They celebrate the liturgy there three times a day.
The charming village of Vézelay clinging to its hill has retained its authenticity. Magnificent medieval houses can be discovered around the alleys and the main street. Several contemporary authors have found inspiration in the heart of this unspoiled landscape. At the Zervos museum, it is possible to admire works by Calder, Miro and Max Ernst. In August, sacred music concerts resonate in the heart of the basilica, which is today the most visited monument in Burgundy with more than 800 visitors per year, far in front of the basilica of Paray-le-Monial and the Hospices de Beaune.
A gastronomic and oenological heritage
If history buffs are thrilled in Vézelay, wine and good food lovers will find what they are looking for on the “eternal hill”. The Bourgogne Vézelay appellation is booming. Passionate winegrowers open their doors to you to discover elegant wines. Many restaurants offer a variety of dishes in the purest Burgundian tradition. Every Wednesday from May to October, a magnificent market awaits you and offers local products for direct sale.
To choose the hill and the abbey of Vézelay for your holidays, it means choosing authenticity and tranquility. It is immersing yourself in a fascinating history, while savoring the wine, agricultural and culinary treasures of a region which has preserved its identity over time.