Velay

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County of Velay
Comtat del Velai (Occitan)
Comté du Velay (French)
1142–1790


Coat of arms

In red, the modern territory of Haute-Loire (most of it was former Velay) within France
Capital Le Puy-en-Velay
Languages Occitan, French
Religion Roman Catholicism, Calvinism
Government Monarchy
Historical era Middle Ages
 •  Established 1142
 •  Disestablished 1790
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Aquitaine.svg Duchy of Aquitaine
Kingdom of France
Today part of  France

Velay is a historical area of France situated in east Haute-Loire département and south east of Massif central.

History[edit]

Julius Caesar mentioned the vellavi as subordinate of the arverni. Strabon suggested that they might have made secession from the arverni and Ptolemy located them as “vellauni””.

The country is well delimited by natural obstacles: Allier river in the south, Mount Boutières and Mézenc on the east, Mount Devès on the west. Devès wear celtic toponyms clearly suggesting an antic border (Fix from finis; la Durande from gaulish Equiranda : frontier) .

No explanation concerning the toponym, except XIXth century’s naïve scholastic ones that connected the name to PIE root wel (land of “well … people” ) or even to the mythological Hel (“land or mountains of the hell” referring to the volcanic geology).


Middle Ages[edit]

In the early Middle Ages Velay was known as Pagus Vellaicus and was placed under the rule of the Duchy of Aquitaine, and followed the Auvergne destiny.

The first mention of a county of Velay was in 1142.

In the beginning of the 10th century, Le Puy-en-Velay had supplanted Ru-Essio (Saint-Paulien) as religious and administrative capital of the Velay.

In 1162, Velay becomes an independant county, with its bishop as count reporting directly to the King.

Velay was divided into eighteen baronies .

The country is part of Languedoc from the mid XIV century but with a particular status: Velay kept its own States General until 1789. During the same period, it was a crossroads of pilgrimage trails.


Modern period[edit]

In the beginning of the 16th century Velay was wealthy, but the religious wars ruined the country. Le Puy was ardently catholic but the extreme south east of Velay was deeply protestant. It is still nowadays the most protestant area of France.

Velay ceased to exist after the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. The department of Haute-Loire was created from the former county of Velay, on top of it a portion of Auvergne,Gévaudan and Vivarais are added.

The first part of Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes from Robert Louis Stevenson is entitled Velay, the country being the starting point of the writers’trip.

The name is kept for geographical terms (Mounts of the Velay) or new French geographical administrative entity (“Communautés de communes" du Velay )

References[edit]

Sources

  • Francisque Mandet, Histoire du Velay (1862) [1],[2]
  • Christian Lauranson-Rosaz, L'Auvergne et ses marges (Velay, Gévaudan) du VIIIe au XIe siècle. La fin du monde antique ?, Le Puy-en-Velay, éd. des Cahiers de la Haute-Loire, 1987, rééd. 2007

[3]