Monday, August 12, 2019

Discover Périgueux's historical trove

An ancient structure overlooks the Isle River in Périgueux.

This post originally appeared on the Places & Faces blog for The Local Buzz.

The Mimos Festival was our excuse for our most recent trip to Périgueux. I've wanted to attend this festival for a long time, but as it turned out, it was HOT on the day of our visit, so we only saw a couple of mime-type acts. Instead, we found an ice cream shop and strolled the streets as we became reacquainted with this very pleasant city in the center of the Dordogne department.

Since 1993, Périgueux has been hosting a mime festival with the official name of Mimos: Festival International des Arts du Mime et Geste. Each day during the July event, a variety of shows with the themes of movement, swing, or liveliness are presented at venues scattered around the city. Many of the shows are free and all are non-verbal, featuring mimes, clowns, dancing, puppetry, or music.

'Nonna(s) Don't Cry" was performed at Mimos 2019 in Périgueux.

'Domovoi' was performed is performed at Mimos 2019 in Périgueux.

The last time I visited Périgueux was on a crystal clear winter day, but now the city is decked out for summer with colorful pennants and stages set up for evening concerts presented throughout the high season.

The dome of Cathédrale Saint-Front is seen from
Jardin de Touin in Périgueux. 

One of the highlights of any visit to Périgueux, especially if you're bringing kids, is Vesunna, Périgueux's window to the ancient world. This museum is built upon the remains of a large Gallo-Roman domas (urban village). With its large glass walls, the museum is striking and contemporary, an unlikely setting for the ancient world that it contains.

The Gallo-Roman museum Vesunna, designed by Jean Nouvel, allows
visitors to see the ancient domus buried beneath Périgueux.

A visit to Vesunna starts with a collection of limestone architectural features from the 4th century. Pieces of Italian pottery, which revealed to archaeologists that Roman Périgueux was a thriving commercial center, are also on display.

Models of the domus help visitors visualize what the layout of the rooms looked like 2,000 years ago. Murals adorned the walls — some painted in trompe l’œil style. A round pond surrounded by a patio is the centerpiece of the excavation site.

A piece of an ancient Roman tomb is on display at Vesunna in Périgueux.

Vibrant murals from the 1st century still adorn the walls of a room in the
Vesone domus at Vesunna in Périgueux.

Don't miss the short film about the Vesone domus that depicts its history through animation. The film is about 15-minutes long, and every other showing includes English sub-titles.

Built in the 1st or 2nd century, the Tour de Vésone in Périgueux
is dedicated to Vesunna, the tutelary goddess of Pétrocores.

Vesunna is surrounded by a shady park that contains la Tour de Vesone, a remnant of a Gallo-Roman temple. The museum is open every day during the summer, and there's plenty of parking.

Cathédrale Saint-Front in Périgueux has five domes and a bell tower.
Its bells are famous throughout Europe, according to the church’s guide.

The “new settlement” of Périgueux dates to the 13th century, and today vestiges of this era remain. Blocks of medieval structures have been preserved as a thriving city center where shops, cafés, and restaurants make this neighborhood attractive to locals and tourists.

The most recognizable feature of Périgueux’s skyline is Cathédrale Saint-Front. Set into a hillside, the church contains a large network of crypts and half-buried chapels. Above, five domes and a bell tower rise toward the sky.

Originally a lookout post, Eschif de Creyssac in Périgueux
was constructed in 1347 of wood and wattle-daub.
Along the Isle River, one can find Eschif de Creyssac, a look-out post dating from 1347 that is made of wood and wattle-daub.

If the weather urges you to be indoors during your visit to Périgueux, the city has two other museums: Musée d'Art et d'Archéologie (closed Tuesdays) and Musée Militaire (open 2-6 p.m. except Sundays).

A cannon in Jardin du Touin in Périgueux is aimed
across the Isle River.