Labelled «Most Beautiful Detour in France» and «Characterful Village in Loire», Charlieu is well worth spending a day in to discover its treasures one by one!
Start with the must-see at Charlieu: the Benedictine Abbey. The foundations are the first unusual feature as excavations have revealed the layout of churches from the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. The visit then takes us to the Gothic cloister, then to the chapter house with a remarkably well preserved Romanesque colonnade. The abbey is famous for its sculpted tympana: The abbey is famous for its carved tympana: the tympanum of the monks’ church is the oldestexample of Burgundian Romanesque art in France today. Its primitive side contrasts with the abundant imagery and the meticulous workmanship of the narthex tympanum.
No need to ask for the menu at lunchtime because in Charlieu you have to taste the andouille “tripe sausage”. It’s up to you whether you have it for starter or main course and you may well choose to sample it with mustard sauce – yummy!
Take time to stroll around the old centre. There is a succession of half-timbered houses, Renaissance style homes or classical architecture, that evokes the town’s rich history. Take a walk via Saint Philibert Church: its 15C stalls are both rare and remarkable as their backrests are decorated with a series of 24 figures painted on wood.
Finish up with either the Silk Museum or the Hospital Museum. Both these museums are in the former Hôtel-Dieu Hospital (18C), The Silk Museum pays tribute to what has been the main trade in the town for two centuries: the manufacture of silk fabrics for fashion and luxury furnishings. And before leaving, don’t miss the museum’s shop to discover the designs created in the museum’s sewing workshop. As for the Hospital Museum it was created to take you right back into a world filled with emotions: the apothecary store with its wood panelling, its drawers for plants and its china pots, the linen room, the large ward for patients. Everything here has been painstakingly recreated, even the smells, to allow you to travel back in time.