Friday, April 13, 2012

Hôtel Fontfreyde and FRAC

Recently I got my chance to see the inside of the Hôtel Fontfreyde here in Clermont-Ferrand. While I’ve lived here I pass by quite often, and since the courtyard with its gorgeous spiral stone staircase is visible from the alleyway that cuts from marché Saint-Pierre to rue des Gras, I've wanted to explore the interior for quite some time. While my mother was visiting we noticed the Centre Photo Graphique was hosting an interesting-looking photography exhibit, so we noted the hours it was open, and returned the following weekend to take a look.

The current exhibit that month was Du jeu dans le je (the game in the I?). Not much of the art displayed was very memorable, maybe only the man with the giant dandelion, but I’ve already forgotten the artist.

It was the architecture of the building I found fascinating, evidence suggests that the current building includes portions of several buildings that date back to the Middle Ages. The rooms are organized around a small courtyard with a spiral stone staircase in one corner. At the beginning of the sixteenth century the property was rebuilt by the family Coustave. Gabriel of Fontfreyde and his wife Gabrielle Hayte then rebuilt it again around 1578. Their son John added the spiral staircase between 1578 and 1588. The Hôtel Fontfreyde then was purchased by the Dumas of Chalendrat.

The facade on the Rue des Gras was modified sometime in the eighteenth century, and only in the second half of the nineteenth century did renovations connnect the building with another on the Petite rue Saint-Pierre side to form the structure we are familiar with today. The City of Clermont bought the building in April 1912, and by May 23 of that year, it had been designated a monument historique. Clermont’s own master glassmaker Adrian Churn made the stained glass windows on the first floor. A final restoration is undertaken starting in 1920 making small changes to the spiral staircase and adding Volvic rock to the exterior. Another large change from the ancient structures is that the modern-day cellars are in fact the former ground floor, as rue des Gras is four meters higher than three centuries ago.

I couldn’t find any information on the remarkable fireplace on the second floor. The intricate detail and the now-foggy mirror above it were one-of-a-kind.

Currently there is a different exhibit being shown, for more information you can visit the Clermont-Ferrand website

Not far from the Hôtel Fontfreyde is the Fonds regional d’art contemporain Auvergne, or FRAC for short. Although really I had only heard of David Lynch because of his television series Twin Peaks (1990-1992), I was surprised to find that he has produced and directed several other familiar titles: Eraserhead (1977), The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984) and Mulholland Drive (2001).

The quality of the publicity rivaled that of the exhibit

A filmmaker, television director, visual artist, comic book artist, musician and occasional actor (according to Wikipedia), his art is in a way as surreal as his films. I wasn’t too impressed. You can see for yourself until the 1st of May. There is no entrance fee for either of these exhibits.


  1. Bonjour Liene. Thank you for stopping by chez French Girl and for leaving a comment today! You know, I don't think I have ever visited Clermont Ferrand, so this post was just perfect for me! So much history in the venerable Hôtel Fontfreyde! Beautiful. Bon weekend! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. A Canadian accent in Clermont-Ferrand (David Lynch), yay!

    1. Oooops... I always mix up David Lynch with David Cronenberg. Maybe it's the first name or maybe it's the hair. My bad :-/

  3. I've driven through Clermont more times than I can count, but have yet to really visit it. Next time I'm up that way I think I need to make a day trip into the city and explore :)


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