Vezelay is in the Yonne Department in Burgundy. It’s not a touristy place despite being the home of Chablis wine but it really ought to be more well know. A land of castles and vineyards, of magnificent churches and rolling hills, historic towns and charming villages…
What to see and do in Vezelay
Vézelay’s stunning hilltop Basilique Ste-Madeleine, was built on a former Roman and Carolingian site, between the 11th and 13th centuries. It’s home to a famous 12th-century tympanum and it’s claimed the mid-12th century crypt houses a reliquary containing one of Mary Magdalene’s bones. Whether it does or not, the church is quite magnificent. Damaged by a great fire in 1120, desecrated during the French Revolution and repeatedly struck by lightning, by the mid-1800s it was on the point of giving up and falling apart. In 1840 the architect Viollet-le-Duc took on the project to restore it.
Chateau lovers will be thrilled with the glorious Chateau d’Ancy-le-Franc which has the biggest collection of Renaissance murals in France.
The 13th century Château de Bazoches, 12km to the north was a former home of military strategist Marquis de Vauban. Well worth visiting to see the room Vauban drafted plans for 300 fortified towns all over France. The château is still owned by his descendants.
Musée Zervos is in the former home of Nobel Prize–winning pacifist writer Romain Rolland, 1866–1944. The collection of Christian Zervos, 1889–1970 is on display including paintings, sculptures and mobiles by Calder, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Léger, Miró and Picasso.
The 12th century Chapelle Ste-Croix, is a small Romanesque chapel on the hillside below Vézelay. It was here that Bernard de Clairvaux gave a sermon to launch the Second Crusade.
At the top of the town, don’t miss Maison Jules Roy, a quaint little house. The former home of writer Jules Roy offers great views over the Basilica and has pretty gardens.
Head 5km out of town to Fontaines Salées, ancient saltwater springs from which salt was harvested since Neolithic times. It became a Celtic sanctuary and then Roman baths. Tickets to the fountains also allow access to Le Musée Archéologique in St-Père which has a collection of antiquities from the Salt Fountains excavations. A medieval room contains a collection of sculptures from the 13th and 14th centuries, including a late 13th century Saint James statue.