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plan balade decouverte


Departure from the tourist office at the Church Square
Duration : 1h30

City of St-LizierHistoiry of Saint-Lizier

Settled at the foot of the Couserans Mountains, Saint-Lizier certainly is the town of Ariège that hosts the most important number of monuments, all bearing witness to a rich historical past.
The first text mentioning the « City of the Consorani » dates back to the beginning of the Vth century. It was at the moment of the construction of the fortifications (end IVth - beginning Vth century) that Saint-Lizier became the power center of the « City of the Consorani ».
Towards the end of the Vth century, the City became a Bishop’s see of which Saint-Valier seemed to have been the first occupant. The second Bishop - mentioned in 506 by the Consilium of Agde - was Lycérius, or Glycérius (according to copyists) who, once canonized, became Saint-Lizier and gave his name to the City.
For over 79 prelates succeeded on the Couserans Bishop’s see that was suppressed by the Concordat in 1801.

As an important stage on the Piedmont Pyrenean road to Santiago (GR78), the City of Saint-Lizier also is a living memory of the great age of pilgrimage to Compostela. On this basis, its major monuments were added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1998.

Saint-Lizier is part of the “Ariège Collection” of the Midi-Pyrenean Great Sites. Its many must-see monuments bear witness to a proud historical past.


1. The Hôtel-Dieu and the XVIIIth century Apothecary

The big XVIIIth century building of the Hôtel-Dieu is adjoining the church. The main point of interest of the building is the perfectly well conserved apothecary dating back to 1764. It provides an important collection of blue and polychrome earthenware pots, mouth blown bottles and a military surgical kit. Surprising remedies such as the « 4 Robbers Vinigar », « Dog’s Oil », « Ratafia for the Poor » and the famous « Elixir of Life » were used here!

Guided tours only (booking at the tourist office)

St-Lizier Cathedral2. The Cathedral

The construction of the Romanesque church dates back to the XIth century and was dedicated to Saint-Lizier. The most remarkable part of the building is the exterior of the apse which is composed of Gallo-roman reuses.
The central apse and the span are entirely decorated with exceptional XIth century Romanesque frescoes.
In the Gothic nave of a typical Toulouse style one can admire a beautiful XVth century stained glass window and the restored XVIIIth century organ.
Free access - guided tours (booking at the tourist office)

St-Lizier Romanesque Cloister3. The Romanesque Cloister

The cloister is adjoining the church and is surmounted by a XIVth century gallery. It dates back to the XIIth century and is the only visible Romanesque cloister in Ariège. The northern gallery is composed of elegant capitals. They were constructed by a workshop in Toulouse that also worked on the Daurade church in Toulouse. The decor is composed of braids, wickerwork, interlaces, palmettos and narrative compositions such as the historical scene of Daniel in the den of lions.
Free access - guided tours (booking at the tourist office)

4. The Bishops’Treasure Room

In this former sacristy opening onto the cloister, numerous items bear witness of the episcopal life of the City: XIIth and XIIIth century crosiers, XIIth century silk mitre with gold embroidery, reliquary boxes, pyxides, silver chalices and ciborias, reliquary crosses, …
The collection’s major piece of art is the entirely made of engraved embossed silver reliquary bust of Saint-Lizier that dates back to the Renaissance. Visible by the grid, with a timer.
Guided tours only (booking at the tourist office)

St-Lizier Half-timbered House5. A XVth Century Half-timbered House

From the XVth century; with corbelled levels.

6. XVIIIth Century Arcades and the Porte du Casse

Take the Rue des Nobles

7. Rue des nobles

The beautiful XVIIIth century houses of the street are former houses of canons. At n° 8, one can admire a creative carving and, at the bottom of several doors, low-relief carvings and construction dates. Most of the village houses were built or re-built during the XVIIIth century.

8. The street is covered by a corner house on arcades 

with a beautiful XVth century half-timbered façade.

Pass under the corner house on arcades and go up to the rue de l’horloge

9. Rue de l’Horloge and the Small Square of Men

At n° 11, do notice a beautiful door decorated with a XVth century lion’s head knocker. Opposite, a commemorative plaque reminds us of Poulitou, the last carillonneur of the City.

10. The former presbytery

On the left, the former presbytery used to be the Saint-Mary’s young girls’ boarding school. Nowadays, the public building is owned by the community and houses a wedding room, conference rooms and the town council room.

11. The City Rampart

Opposite, one can see part of the antique City rampart.
Elliptically shaped, the Gallo-Roman rampart reaches a length of 750 meters with a preserved height of 8 meters.
It was punctuated by 12 round and square towers, of which 10 subsist, and dates back to the end of the IVth century. Specialists consider the rampart being one of the best preserved ones in the South of France. Do notice that the rampart follows the natural slope which is part of roman construction techniques.

12. The Clock Tower (Tour de l’Horloge)

The Clock Tower, formerly known as the « iron gate », was the antique entrance door into the City. The tower used to be semi-circular shaped and would have been changed during the XIIth century.

Pass under the Clock Tower

13. The Town Hall

The town hall is decorated with the coat of arms of Saint-Lizier: a gold bell on a gilded background. Its Gascon device says : « Quan me tocan, que heou butch », which means « When being touched, I make noise ».

Turn right climbing up the Rue de Notre Dame

14. Rue Notre-Dame

A lovely street paved with cobbles. On the left, do notice a XVth century half-timbered house.

Halfway up the street, turn left into the Carré de Bourassou

Scallop shell of Saint-James15. Carré de Bourassou - Scallop shell of Saint-James

This public passageway immerses you in the Middle-Ages and is one of the most beautiful alleyways of the City. On the vault, a scallop shell of Saint-James reminds us of the religious brotherhood of Saint-James the Great that was settled in Saint-Lizier. Nowadays, Saint-Lizier still is an important stop on the Piedmont Pyrenean R»oad (GR 78) to Santiago and so receives many pilgrims in its pilgrim’s hostel.

The passageway shows you a half-timbered house, cobbled pavements with central gutters, little alleys in between the houses to prevent an eventual fire from spreading.

16. A half-timbered house

This half-timbered house of « Jules the tailor » was owned by the City’s tailor and dressmaker. He was a short man who needed to climb up the table to be able to take measures. At the corner of the house, do notice the tiniest little alley of the City, « le Carré de Jules ».

Walk on and, at the end of the passageway, turn right. Cross the Cour de Télet and turn right into the staircase alley « Carré de Louise ».

17. A former Canon’s House

A half-timbered house with a remarkable entrance door. Nowadays, the house proposes characterful Bed & Breakfasts.

(A rural detour allows you to discover the Pouterolles cross. This former meditation place of the bishops offers you a beautiful view.
Walk down the street to the left and then take the direction of “Pouterolles”. At about 50m of tarmacked road, turn right onto a small track and then walk up the first track on the left until you get to the cross. Retrace your steps. Down the track, turn left in the direction of the Palais des Evêques (the bishops’ palace). Head forward until you get to a parking space on the right. Cross the parking space and pass under the « Domaine du Palais portal ». Walk straight ahead until you get to the terrace of a restaurant. Follow the walking instructions from n° 18)

Turn right until you get to the Notre Dame Street. On the left, walk up the staircase and cross the courtyard on the right. Walk down the covered staircase.

St-Lizier Bishops’Palace18. The Bishops’Palace and Notre Dame de la Sède

Built in 1654, on the initiative of the bishop Monseigneur de Marmiesse, and in order to elevate the status of the small Couserans diocese, the bishops’ palace nowadays houses the departmental museum and the Notre Dame de la Sède Cathedral with its beautiful Renaissance paintings.

2 Possibilities to end the discovery walk :

By the gardens : walk down the cobbled staircase. Cross the terraced gardens and walk down another cobbled staircase. Continue walking down the narrow cobbled steps of the bishops’ passageway (Passage des Evêques) that will bring you back to the Church Square.
By the road : turn left and walk straight ahead until passing under a big portal. Cross the parking space and the « Carré de l’Ange » and then walk down the road until you get back to the Church Square.

Bonus : 

Passing by the gardens of the former presbytery (nice view), extend your walk to get to the Place des Etendes.
From the tourist office, walk down the Rue Neuve. Turn right at the end of the street and walk up for a few meters. Turn left into a little cobbled alley. Walk straight ahead and climb up the stairs. You’ve arrived in the former presbytery’s garden. Retrace your steps to get back to the Rue du Puits. Turn right and walk down the street until you get to the Place des Barris. Turn left and, on the left, walk up onto the Place des Etendes.

Opposite the street, on a half-timbered house façade on the right and as a witness of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and its brotherhood, you can see a carved scallop shell and walking stick.
The houses of the square are equipped with balconies (estandes) where crop and washing used to be put to dry. This special feature gave its name to the square.

Retrace your steps back to the road. Turn left to reach the Vigne de l’Evêché parking space.