With its rich rural and industrial past, the “barraban” city has always been a real link between Auvergne and Languedoc. This privileged situation between the Margeride Mounts and the foothills of the Aubrac plateau, as well as the arrival of the railway in 1887, have made Saint-Chély-d’Apcher a vibrant city full of life where tradition and modernity meet.
Before we begin, a little etymology!
- Sancti Hilari de Capoleg, is the ancient name of Saint-Chély-d’Apcher. “Saint-Chély” is a local deformation of Saint Hilari or Saint Hilaire. The locality was born from a religious foundation linked to Hilarius, who was bishop of Gévaudan in Merovingian times.
- Apcher, formerly Apchier, is made up of two words: “Aps” which means “castle” and “chier” which means “stone scree”. We can therefore see in “Apchier” the castle on the stones, castle in rockslide or castle in ruins.
- Saint-Chély-d’Apcher thus takes its name from the Patron Saint of the parish, Hilaire, and its barony, Apcher. During the Revolution, the town was called “Roche Libre”, then “Saint-Chély Ville” and again Saint-Chély-d’Apcher in 1851. The Barons of Apcher reigned over this land from the 12th to the 17th century.
Men of soil and steel…
In 1887 the railway arrived and the local train station was built ! Then, the commissioning of the ironworks in 1917 compensate for the fall in the fabric trade. The industrial site, the only one in Lozère, will employ up to 1,300 workers in the early 1960s! Today it has around 200 employees and produces 120,000 tons of special steel per year.
- These steel coils are used in electric vehicles, high-speed trains and large nuclear, hydraulic and thermal generators.
- The Metallurgy Museum, located next to the factory, retraces the epic industrial adventure that has now been lasting for more than a century!
The multi-faceted barraband city has thus managed to ally its local population with more than 17 different nationalities who have arrived to work at the factory throughout the years.
Did you know ? In 1362, during the Hundred Years Long’ War, an army of English looters attacked the city. The 200 inhabitants, led by Guérin VI and Guérin VII d’Apcher, armed themselves and pushed them back, shouting “Of Apchier, Notre-Dame, bars forward” which translated to “barres en avant” in french. According to some historians, the distortion of the language through the centuries would have transformed this rallying cry into a local demonym ! Hence the name of the current inhabitants of Saint-Chély-d’Apcher: the “barrabans”.
Zooming on … Théophile Roussel
As you explore the Lozere county, you may notice this name that often appears on streets or buildings. The Boulevard Théophile Roussel in Mende, the main street of Saint-Chély-d’Apcher, villages squares or even the schools… But who was this Théophile Roussel?
Born in Saint-Chély-d’Apcher in July 1816, Théophile Roussel studied in his home town before moving to Paris. As early as 1841, he made a bibliographical study on a famous Lozerian, Guillaume de Grimoard (pope in 1362 under the name of Urbain V – if that name rings a bell it’s normal, a hiking path crossing Lozere bears his name today !). This study earned him the praise of the a famous french academy as well as a gold medal from the french state.
The same year, he was admitted as a resident of the hospitals complex of Paris at the young age of 24. After brilliant studies and many travels, Théophile Roussel returned to Lozere and was elected deputy at 33 years old; he married Elisa d’Estrehans in Saint-Chély-d’Apcher.
- The couple settled in the small town of Orfeuillette. Théophile Roussel transformed his property into a magnificent château, which has now become a superb 4-star hotel !
A life of improving child protection in France
Théophile Roussel practised the profession of country-side doctor while being General Counseler of Lozere. In 1860, while being Deputy of Lozere as well as President of the Society for the Protection of Children, he helped pass the law called “Roussel” for the protection of children. He entered the Academy of Medicine in 1872 and the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1891.
Théophile Roussel died in his Château d’Orfeuillette at the age of 87. He bequeathed to his native town his father’s house, which became the town hall, his library of 5,000 books and a large sum of money to build the Théophile Roussel Hospice Hospital.
This generous and brilliant man led a decisive action in favour of the arrival of the railroad in Saint-Chély, and then the installation of the factory !
A crossroads of exploration
Nowadays, what is there to do in Saint-Chély-d’Apcher?
This ideally situated and accessible town is a wonderful crossroads of exploration. Indeed, due to its immediate proximity to the A75 highway, it is an ideal place to set up your “base camp” in order to set off to discover Margeride and Aubrac ! In just a few minutes, the calm and preserved landscapes of Haute-Lozère await you. On foot, by bicycle or on horseback, there are numerous trails starting from the town centre and the surrounding area.
A festive city !
The streets of the city regularly come alive during the many festivals and events that take place there…Here’s a sneak-peak of the events that you shouldn’t miss :
- Immersive – The Foire à la Bonne Bouffe or Good Food Fair. At the beginning of August, the main street of the city comes alive and dresses in its most beautiful colours… It’s time to celebrate the Good Food Fair! A not-to-be-missed event since 1984 for lovers of good local products and a friendly atmosphere.
- Artistic – The Saint-Chély-d’Arte Festival. For more than 15 years now, the Saint-Chély-d’Arte Festival has been inviting spectators to get off the beaten track to meet art in all its forms. All of them? Absolutely! Pottery, painting, theatre, music and dance, but also basketry, sculpture and engraving… Some of the works from previous editions can be seen around the pond in the Parc du Péchaud of the town…
- Festive – The night festivities of “A summer a the farm” event. In July, as part of this event, the Petit Foirail square in Saint-Chély-d’Apcher is decorated with colourful garlands, checkered tablecloths and a musical atmosphere for four festive and convivial Guinguette Evenings. On the program : you bring your own dishes and our local producers take care of the rest! Discover the festival as if you were there by clicking here.
Discover the town and its surroundings !
You are now ready to plan your stay in Haute-Lozère! Let yourself be guided by the festivities, the visits to be made, the landscapes to be discovered and the delicious local specialities to be tasted…