Secret history of France: Auch

Cathédrale Sainte-Marie d’Auch, was named a Unesco world heritage site as one of the major sites on the Chemin de Compostelle (left); The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris shares architectural similarities with the western façade of Auch Cathedral (right)

Treasure and tragedy in Gascony’s historic capital: In her series revealing the history of France’s cities, art historian Julia Faiers reveals the cultural treasures tucked away in Gers capital, Auch

For a city and departmental capital, Auch (pronounced Osh or Owsh) is small, counting no more than 23,000 inhabitants.

But this little city has always had big ambitions, evident from its soaring cathedral, grand Monumental Staircase and for its claim as the birthplace of swashbuckling hero d’Artagnan.

The Monumental Staircase was built in 1863 and spans the 35-metre drop between the old and new towns via 374 stone steps. 

Statue of d’Artagnan on the Monumental Staircase, with a view to the right of the Tour d’Armagnac, which now houses the city’s trésor.

It proudly displays a statue of one of its famous inhabitants, the musketeer d’Artagnan – though the link between the place and the man is rather tenuous.

Charles de Batz de Castelmore served Louis XIV as captain of the Musketeers of the Guard, and provided Alexandre Dumas with the inspiration for his famous character.

He was born near Lupiac, a small Gersois village, but thereafter spent much of his life far from Gascony.

Auch’ ...

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