National Geographic : 1957 Sep
the airy apse. The magic of vault ing lost much of its mystery as he pointed out what held up the ceiling and the elementary engineering be hind it. Among the earliest and most popular pilgrim routes of Europe was one that wound through the val leys of Auvergne. Along this sacred route, linking France and Spain, Moorish influence infiltrated into the architecture of the region's celebrated sanctuaries, notably the cathedral at Le Puy. The cathedral took shape on the flank of a rocky height where a paralytic was miraculously cured in the 5th century. Since then, pil grims have flocked to the spot from all parts of the country and from foreign lands. Thirteen kings of France beginning with Charle magne, six popes, some 20 saints, and countless thousands of others have made pilgrimages to Le Puy. Not even wars have deterred the devout. On one summer day in 1942 more than 10,000 French, fol lowing the example set by Joan of Arc's mother, came here to pray for their country. City Lives in Dead Volcano Le Puy, principal city of the re gion called Velay, lies in a bowl-like volcanic crater surrounded by green mountains. Two towering pinnacles of lava jut above the rooftops. On one the Cathedral of Notre Dame rears its Romanesque bulk. Atop the other, which rises 280 feet straight up from the valley floor, spectacularly perches the Chapel of St. Michel d'Aiguilhe (page 420). Le Puy caps its religious land marks with a 50-foot-tall Virgin standing on the summit of the cathedral rock. This colossal statue soars 400 feet above the town hall. Cast from 213 Russian cannon cap 433 Le Puy's Ribbed Streets Hypnotize the Eye More than one mob in Lafayette's day found cobblestone paving a convenient arsenal of brickbats to hurl at enemies. Thoroughfares like this exclude auto mobiles from much of the old town.