Le Puy-en-Velay or Le Puy is a commune of south-central France, préfecture (capital) of the Haute-Loire département. Population (1999): 20,490.
Le Puy was a major bishopric in medieval France, founded early, though its early history is legendary. According to a Martyrology compiled by Ado of Vienne and published in many copies in 858, a certain priest named George accompanied a certain Front, the first Bishop of Périgueux, when they were sent to Gaul. Front was added to the list of the apostles to Gaul, traditionally sent out to reorganize Christians after the persecutions that are associated with Decius and Gratian, circa 250. As with others of the group, like Saint Martial of Limoges, later mythology pushed Saint Front and the priest George back in time, and tells how George had been restored to life with a touch of Saint Peter's staff. This expanding legend of St. George, which, according to the Church historian Duchesne is not earlier than the 11th century, then makes that saint one of the seventy-two disciples of Jesus, and tells how he founded the Church of Civitas Vellavorum (as Ruessium began to be called during the 4th century) in the "County of Le Velay", and how, at the request of Bishop Martial of Limoges, he caused an altar to the Virgin Mary to be erected on Mont Anis (Mons Anicius). This was the beginning of the shrine that became the cathedral that marked one starting-point for the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, a walk of some 600 km.
After St. George the founder, later Medieval local traditions evoke a legendary list of bishops at the chief town of the pays of Le Velay: Macarius, Marcellinus, Roricius, Eusebius, Paulianus, and Vosy (Evodius), all of them canonized by local veneration. It will have been from Bishop Paulianus that the Gaulish settlement of Ruessium/Vellavorum received its Christianizing name, Saint-Paulien.
The founding of an early church of Our Lady of Le Puy at Anicium is attributed to Vosy (bishop from 374), who transferred the episcopal see from Ruessium to Anicium. St. Vosy was apprised in a vision that the angels themselves had dedicated the cathedral to the Blessed Virgin, whence the epithet Angelic given to the cathedral of Le Puy.
It is impossible to say whether this St. Evodius is the same who signed the decrees of the Council of Valence in 374. Neither can it be affirmed that St. Benignus, who in the seventh century founded a hospital at the gates of the basilica, and St. Agrevius, the 7th-century martyr from whom the town of Saint-Agrève Chiniacum took its name, were really bishops. Duchesne thinks that the chronology of these early bishops rests on very little evidence and that very ill supported by documents; before the 10th century only six individuals appear of whom it can be said with certainty that they were bishops of Le Puy. The first of these, Scutarius, the legendary architect of the first cathedral, dates, if we may trust the inscription which bears his name, from the end of the 4th century.
Though the ancient diocese was suppressed by the Concordat of 1801, it was re-erected in 1823.
The present Romanesque cathedral, where Catholic pilgrims starting their journey to Santiago de Compostela gather to be blessed each morning is a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1998, as part of the "Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France". In the chapel consecrated to her, the Black Virgin is surrounded by a golden altar.
Le Puy is famous for a particula strain of green lentils, for its lace-making, and for its green liqueur, Verveine," flavored with verbena.
Le Puy is twinned with the town of Tonbridge, England.
- Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09185b.htm): Le Puy
- Jean Daugis, "A propos du Velay" (http://www.logipro.com/velay/culture/index.htm) historical notes (in French)