Spot the pink sandstone
Unmissable stop for the pilgrims traveling along the mythical Camino de Compostela, Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole is a picturesque little village with a rather peculiar history. Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole, pearched at about 950m in altitude, not far from Haute-Loire, at the heart of Massif Central, is told to be named after Albanus, the first english christian martyr, beheaded for having hidden and protected a fugitive priest.
To better comprehend the fascinating history of this small village, let Auguste, the fictional local mailman, tell it to you in the “Scénovision de Saint-Alban“. A 45 min. indoor and interactive visit of the town and its surroundings (only available in french).
From the beast of Gevaudan to the mentally ill of Lozère
Former stronghold of the barony of Apcher, the town was established around a feudal castle, which became over time a jewel of architecture adorned with pink sandstone!
Considerably embellished when it became the property of the De Moriangès family in the 17th century, the castle of Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole is worth a visit. One of the family member took part in the fight against the famous Beast of Gévaudan (discover our srecap of this dark affair here)!
- Indeed, a few after the first attacks, the Count of Morangiès decided to hold a large hunting session in order to try and defeat the mysterious monster. With ten thousand men coming from the surroundings, he will unfortunately fail in this noble mission.
In 1821, the heir of the Morangiès family sold the then very dilapidated castle to a monk : Hilarion Tissot. The latter, helped by nuns, proposed to turn it into a place of protection and care for the mentally insane women of the county who, at the time, were then locked up in Mende in lamentable conditions. Although he had laudable humanitarian intentions, he soon ran into serious financial difficulties…. Barely 3 years after having bought it, Hilarion Tissot was obliged to sell the castle to the County of Lozere.
- After much needed refurbishing, the county started placing there most of the mentally ill of Lozère, until then scattered around the neighboring counties.
The birth of a new form of caring for patients
In 1874, the establishment care for over 300 patients and had considerably enlarged thanks to new buildings around the castle.
The number of patients welcomed in Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole continued to grow and in 1900, the establishment was renovated and modernised. When Second World War broke out, François Tosquelles, a Spanish refugee, came to assist Doctor Blavet. During the war, the hospital was a place of asylum for many Jewish families, but also for artists (among them Paul Eluard, Georges Sadoul and Tristan Tzara) as well as war rebels.
The presence of these artistic and scientific personalities led to an important intellectual melting pot in Saint-Alban at that time, with the humanisation of hospitalisation and care for the sick as a backdrop.
- This in-depth reflection gave rise to surprising changes in the functioning of the psychiatric hospital: destruction of the surrounding walls, creation of a theatre company and a printing press, both managed equally by the carers and the patients, organisation of big balls and shows in the village, etc……
The castle’s eventful history, its Italian theatre-like galleries and its imposing blue door make it a very unusual place! The good news is that you can access it for free all year round when our Tourist Information Office in Saint-Alban is open. From spring to autumn, exhibitions and concerts bring this gorgeous place to life.
All of Margeride at your fingertips
Today, what is there to do in Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole ?
The numerous hiking trails starting from the village offer a wide range of choices to hikers… Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole is also a must for pilgrims on their way to Compostela on the famous GR65! It is the gateway to Lozère on the Via Podiensis (the Puy en Velay route).
A festive little village!
When the fine spring weather arrives, Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole comes alive: concerts, fairs, festivals, sports events, there is something for everyone! Here is a short overview of the must-see events:
- Gourmet – The Foire d’Antan (Yesteryear’s fair). At the beginning of August, the centre of the town hosts this annual fair which aims to highlight not only local products but also local friendliness ! Concerts, entertainment, a gourmet market, garage sales and free performances by the troupes traveling to perform at the Festival of World Cultures… A beautiful Saint-Albanian day not to be missed!
- Sportive – The Rand’Albanaise. This sporting event, which takes place in September, attracts more and more participants every year. The watchword: enjoy! From beginners to experienced sportsmen and women, the courses are adapted, varied and have in common the discovery of the splendid landscapes of the Margeride. Dive into the atmosphere by clicking here.
- Exotic – Festival Détours du Monde. Mainly based in Chanac (48), this committed and colourful trans-artistic festival also has a travelling programme: “La Transhumance du Festival”. Every year, Saint-Alban hosts a concert during this “transhumance” in what is undoubtedly the most original scenic place of the route: the courtyard of the Château! The pink sandstone arches as a backdrop, the summer twilight and the sounds offered by the place: so many reasons not to miss this exceptional concert! Find all the details on the Festival’s website.
An unmissable stopover in Margeride
Between abruptness and softness, the guarantee of a preserved nature and a rich heritage, it is the ideal place for a stay with family or friends. In the heart of the Margeride, the surroundings of Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole will allow you to discover many surprises, including, a few kilometres away, the peat bogs of Lajo as well as the famous European Bison Reserve!