afar, Embrun seems to be a fortress enthroned on its rock.
times Embrun was the capital of the Maritime Alps, in the Middle
Ages it was an ecclesiastical centre, and in the 17th century it
was indeed fortified by Vauban, although it already benefitted from
natural protection perched on its rocky platform.
Overlooking the Durance plain and the area of water at the end of Serre-Ponçon lake,
Embrun is also privileged in that it is but a stone's throw from
the high mountains of the Ecrins and fifteen minutes car journey
from several ski resorts.
is known as the "Nice of the Alps" because of its gentle climate,
and will doubtless impress you with its glorious history. It's a
small town blessed by the gods, deserving at least a whole day of
exploration, through the maze of pedestrian streets and alleys in
the old town, and cheerful, colourful house fronts decorated with
pastel or brighter tints. Admire the superb sculpted door to a building
many centuries old, a turret, or an old fountain in a shady square.
the heart of the old town you'll be lost in admiration when you
see Embrun cathedral. Notre Dame du Réal is a listed historical
monument, a marvel of gothic art, combining Italian and Lombardic
traditions. It is the largest religious monument in the French Alps,
and will impress you with its monumental dimensions, its rose window,
and its stylized sculpted lions supporting the pillars. Nearby stands
the Brown Tower (La Tour Brune), which was built in the 13th century.
It is still in excellent condition, and you'll shiver when you learn
that it was once used as a prison. Further on, Maison des Chanonges
is a superb Romanesque edifice with beautiful sculpted patterns
on the façade.
take a breather in the gardens of the Archbishop's palace (Archevêché),
behind the cathedral. As you lean over the high wall that protected
the town against invaders, you can take in the whole of the Durance
valley, its market gardens and high mountains.
From up here, maybe you'll start dreaming about the history of Embrun
and all the people who lived here: the counts of Provence and the
Royal heirs, as well as humble pilgrims on their way to the Holy
Land, or in Embrun to ask Our Lady of Réal for a miracle !