The town of Mâcon is the administrative capital of the department of Saône-et-Loire in the region of Burgundy. The urban district of Mâcon owes its origins to the establishment of a fort and river port by the Eduens, a Celtic tribe, probably at the beginning of the first century B.C. The town, called Matisco at the time, expanded rapidly during the first two centuries A.D. Then a fortified perimeter wall was built around it. During his royal tour of 1564-1566, Charles IX called in at Mâcon on 3 June 1564 on his way from Chalon. He was accompanied by his retinue of courtiers and by the grand dignitaries of the realm: his brother, the Duke of Anjou, Henry of Navarre, and the cardinals of Bourbon and Lorraine. As this was the time of the Wars of Religion, both the Swiss and the German mercenaries, considered Mâcon to be of strategic significance as a potential gateway to the French kingdom. Charles IX was received by Queen Joan of Navarre, known as the « Queen of the Protestants », and by one thousand five hundred Huguenots.
Alphonse de Lamartine, Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine, to give him his full name, was born in Mâcon on 21 October 1790 and died in Paris on 28 February 1869. At once poet, prose writer and politician, he stands today as one of the defining literary figures of the French Romantic movement. He was born of minor nobility, loyal to the crown and to the Catholic faith. After a journey to Italy, he served for a short spell in the guard of Louis XVIII. He then returned to Burgundy where, as a young man, he led a life of leisure, given over to amorous exploits and ruinous gambling. In 1833, he was elected to parliament and held his seat till 1851. He withdrew from (front line) politics after a crushing defeat in the presidential election of December1848 which swept Louis Napoleon Bonaparte to power. Lamartine
Montrevel Hall was built in 1750. The Count of Montrevel, its owner in 1767, had two wings added to he Hall. In 1880, François Martin, the then mayor, had two further wings built at right angles to the main building, facing the Rue Carnot (as shown above). Despite having been subjected to frequent alterations over the centuries, the Hall still exhibits many of its original features: wood panelling, paintings, stair case. Now used as the Town Hall., this fine building hosts a whole range of short civic events. Town Hall, as seen from Rue Carnot
In 1790, Mâcon became the capital of the newly formed department of Saône-et-Loire. In 1814, the town was invaded by the Austrian army, then it was liberated twice by French forces before finally being occupied until the fall of the Empire. After the The Hundred Days, which witnessed the return of Napoleon, Mâcon and its surrounding district were once again overrun by the Austrians. During the Second World War, Mâcon was the first town on the Paris to Lyon axis to lie within the Unoccupied Zone. The town was liberated on 4th September 1944 by troops who had landed in Provence. The Hundred Days was the period between Napoleon`s return to France from exile on the island of Elba in 1814, in a bid to reclaim his Empire, and his ultimate military defeat in 1815. The Unoccupied Zone (Zone libre) was the area of France under the administration of Marshall Petain's government, based in Vichy. Northern France was under direct German control. Mâcon was just south of the Demarcation Line. (Translator`s notes)
Bullt between 1490 and 1510, the Maison de Bois is the the most ancient and famous house in Mâcon. Its facade, entirely constructed in wood, is decorarted with carved figures in sexually explicit poses.
The decorations on the Maison de Bois are made up of carved figures in the form of men and monkeys, whose faces often exhibit disturbing grimaces. Some are standing, some sitting, others have wings, are naked or sometimes clad only in a scarf or a bonnet. The Goncourt brothers likened the Maison de Bois to an enormous wooden chest and urged the citizens of Mâcon to refrain from allowing their gaze to linger on the grotesque carvings which adorned its walls. The Goncourt brothers were 19th century novelists and art critics. A coveted French literature prize is named after them. (Translator`s note)
Saint Peter`s Church was erected in the 1860s. Built in the neo-romanesque style, it boasts a three-tiered facade. Three portals with raised semi- circular arches and tympana decorated with stone bas- reliefs give access to the interior. The church is dominated by two bell towers of rare elegance, each capped with a stone spire. The whole effect is stunning.
Details of the bell tower and of the decorative arches above the portals.
Wall-mounted marble monument to the members of the Beauderon Senneck family, whose tomb is in the church. Choir organ, the work of the renowned organ builder, Aristide-Cavaillé-Coll (1866).
As early as the 6th century, there was a cathedral church in Mâcon. In the 7th and 8th centuries, it was rebuilt several times. During the 16th century, the cathedral was repeatedly ransacked and it was only at the beginning of the 17th century that restoration work was begun, particularly on the bell towers. However, the main body of the cathedral, which had been frequently demolished and rebuilt in the past, showed structural weaknesses which gave cause for considerable concern. Despite serious attempts at conservation, demolition began in March 1799. All that remains is the narthex (porch), the two towers and the vaults which span them. These are the most ancient parts of the building and they are the only vestiges of the former cathedral which are now in evidence. The bases of the towers are square in shape and seem to date from the 11th century, whereas the upper sections of the towers are octagonal and may date from the 13th century. Vieux Saint-Vincent
The Ursulines museum This former convent, built during the second half of the 17th century, has had an eventful history. At first, it was a boarding school for the daughters of the nobility and of the middle classes. It was used as a prison during the Revolution, then as a barracks till the period between the two world wars, before being restored by Mâcon town council. Currently, it is a museum which comprises three sections: archeology, arts and crafts, fine art.
Building work on the Hotel-Dieu ( a former Catholic hospital) began in 1762 to plans drawn by the architect Soufflot. Its characteristic feature is its dome, a tall elegantly shaped structure of monumental proportions. All the rooms in the building converge beneath the dome, where the chapel was formerly situated. On the ground floor, there is an apothecary which exhibits a very fine collection of pharmaceutical receptacles. L’Hôtel-Dieu
Square de la Paix: an environmentally friendly way of collecting and emptying garden waste bins, and of disposing of dead leaves.
This cathedral was built on the instigation of Napoleon 1 st. It is here that the funeral of Alphonse de Lamartine took place on 4 March 1869. In 1994, it was listed as a building of outstanding historical interest. Cathédrale Saint-Vincent
Decorative features from the interior of the Cathedral of Saint- Vincent
Seneck House, (1710 – 1720), Lamartine Museum and seat of the Academy of Arts, Science and Literature, of which Lamartine was the illustrious president. It now houses a museum which exhibits a collection of numerous documents relating to Lamartine, as well as contemporary accounts of his life as a statesman and poet. This building is an unspoilt example of Regency architecture.
The post office The plans used for the construction of this building were amongst those submitted in 1912 by French engineers in response to a request from government of Algeria for designs for a post office in the capital, Algiers. These particular plans were not accepted, but Mâcon acquired them on the rebound and used them to erect this magnificent building. The original post box.
Saint-Clément owes its origins to small church erected at the beginning of the 6th century, where the mortal remains of the first bishops of the diocese of Mâcon were interred. The archeological site of Saint-Clément
The Statue of the Grape-pickers, was erected on Place de la Barre to commemorate the fine vintages which the region of Burgundy claims its own. Mâcon lies at the centre of 12,000 acres of vineyards.
Before Mâcon even existed, there was a ford over the river Saône The Roman legionnaires built a wooden bridge during the conquest of Gaul, but it was not until the 11th century that a stone bridge of only six arches was erected. The bridge was fortified as early as 1221. By 1550, significant improvements had been made to the structure. The lengthening of the span of the bridge seems to date from this period, although it is unknown exactly how many arches there were in the 17th century. During the Wars of Religion, the bridge witnessed tragic events. Guillaume de Saint-Point, governor of Mâcon, ordered the protestants who had been taken prisoner to be thrown into the Saône. The Saint –Laurent Bridge was one of the very few not to be destroyed during the Second World War. Since that time, the appearance of the bridge has not changed; to this day it still has twelve arches.