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Hidden Clermont-Ferrand: Maison Savaron

The Italian Renaissance, to which Clermont owes the lovely maison de Savaron on rue des Chaussetiers, makes its presence felt in Auvergne.

-Marcellin Boudet

Anyone who admires Renaissance architecture will find much to marvel at in the older quarters of Clermont-Ferrand. Here mazes of uneven cobbled streets almost always lead to a quiet square or corner that seems untouched by modernity. In these spaces, the wandering eye immediately lands on an array of neoclassical and Gothic fountains, statues, and villas — piecemeal remains of the age of the notorious Florentine-Auvergnese ruler Catherine de’ Medici. One of the best examples of this kind of architectural relic is Maison Savaron.

Situated on the rue des Chaussetiers, a stone’s throw away from the Place de la Victoire, Maison Savaron is a multi-story sixteenth-century bourgeois mansion built almost entirely out of pierre de Volvic, Auvergne’s far-famed volcanic stone. The hôtel particulier, which is accessed via a catacomb-like entryway, also features leaded glass windows, a number of keystone vault ceilings, and an intriguing ogival portal. The tympanum of said portal depicts three hommes sauvages, mythical wild men that frequently appear in the art and literature of the Middle Ages as well as the Renaissance. 

Today Maison Savaron is partially accessible to the public; most of the property is owned by Le 1513, a restaurant specialising in crepes and Auvergnat home-style cooking. Dining is particularly enchanting on summer or autumn evenings, when shadows — dancing like imps across the Gothic reliefs — play games with the imagination, transporting one back to the dim and distant days of Templars, donjons, and grand halls.

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