July 5, 2022

Auvergne (in Occitan: Auvèrnha, or Euvarnhà) is a historical and cultural region of France located in the heart of the Massif Central. From 1941 to 1946 and from 1956 to 2015, the Auvergne region was also a French administrative region made up of the four departments of Allier, Cantal, Haute-Loire and Puy-de-Dôme. Its largest city, Clermont-Ferrand, was its capital. This region was abolished on January 1, 2016 by the law on Act III of decentralization. The departments that made it up are now part of the new Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. With more than 2,600 years of history, Auvergne is one of the oldest regions in France and one of the best identified. However, its territory is perceived in a variable way and the geographer Pierre Bonnaud has four possible definitions for the contours of the region. Thus, in addition to the former administrative region, there are two historic Auvergnes. The first existed until the 11th century and corresponds to the city of Arvernes or Arvernie which continued with the primitive diocese of Clermont. The constitution of the duchy of Bourbon confiscated the north of its territory and left a smaller province in the 18th century. Finally, in the Parisian imagination, Auvergne often appears as a larger region. In the 19th and 20th centuries, a wave of immigration from Auvergne, Aveyron, Lozère and the Limousin mountains overwhelmed the capital. She imposed her folklore there and was identified as that of the “Auvergnats of Paris” or “bougnats”. It is not uncommon for the entire southern part of the Massif Central to be assimilated to Auvergne in this way. A nod to history, this territorial area is reminiscent of that of the vassal peoples of the Arvernes in Antiquity. Even if this region no longer has any administrative concretization, its history and its geography give it a deep coherence. Its metropolis, Clermont-Ferrand, completely polarizes it and confirms this unity.

Denomination and coat of arms

Auvergne takes its name from the people of Arvernes, whose name is generally interpreted as "those who live in front of land planted with alders" by composition of the Gallic prefix are ("near", "in front") and verno or uerno (“alders” or “alders”). The name Auvergne is written in medieval Romanesque or in Auvergnat Arvernha, Auvernha, Auvernhe or in the north of Lozère Alvernhe. The evolutionary chain of this toponym is Arvernia - Alvernia - Alvernha - Auvernha - Auvergne. The coat of arms of Auvergne, gold with gonfanon gules edged in vert, was taken by the counts of Auvergne from at least the 12th century, the seals and iconography of the counts Robert IV and Guy II already presenting the gonfanon for emblem of Auvergne. The origin of this emblem is not certain. It could be the banner of the Abbé d'Aurillac around which the knights of the nation of Auvergne rallied during the conquest of Jerusalem or that of Eustache III, ancestor of Adelaide of Brabant, the count's mother. Eustache III had the title of Count of Boulogne-sur-Mer and was the brother of Godefroy de Bouillon.


The land of the Arvernes

Auvergne owes its name to the Gallic people of Arvernes. They were one of the most powerful and wealthy tribes in ancient Gaul. This dominance is due to several reasons. The Arverne territory gave its occupants total agricultural autonomy, it was composed in the center of the large and very fertile plain of Limagne, fruit-growing hillsides on the periphery and finally large meadows in the middle mountains ideal for livestock farming. These self-subsistence areas were drowned in a dense forest massif which provided the energy necessary for the establishment of prosperous industries: ceramics and metallurgy.