"Sit down a few steps from the elegant pavilion of the Eugénie spring and watch the drinkers stroll by. Be sure to listen to a neighbour’s conversation, randomly putting a name to the various faces. It's a show that's as entertaining as it is futile, neither more nor less amusing than turning a kaleidoscope between your fingers for 15 minutes. "
Splendid Guide, 1881
The discovery of the Grande Spring in 1844 marked the beginning of the spa resort. In 1862, a visit from Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie launched the spa renewal of the future resort. For the occasion, the Grande Spring was renamed after the Empress and given her first name. The heart of the lush green valley of the Tiretaine River, a natural landscape painted by Camille Corot in the 1830s, gradually transformed into a site for holidaymakers and spa-goers.
Luxurious architecture was built to accommodate the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie from around the world, including famous guests such as the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), Leopold II King of the Belgians, the Queen of Italy, the Goncourt Brothers, George Sand, Sarah Bernhard, Colette, Stéphane Mallarmé, Félix Faure and Maurice Barrès to name a few.
The thermal baths, built by the architect Agis Ledru, opened in 1856. Monumental arches and Ionic columns and statues evoke the Gallo-Roman history of the resort. Two identical wings for treatments were built to provide separate areas for men and women. Many modifications, expansions and restorations occurred over the years, including an Italian-style extension built by Louis Jarrier in 1913-1914 and the figurative stained-glass window of the three large glass panels of the central pavilion.
Eugénie drinking hall
The original monument was a kiosk in cast iron. In 1913-1914, the architect Louis Jarrier protected the spring under a glass bell with an impressive work of silver. The circular counter is covered by flambé glazed sandstone with geometric patterns and opaline glass. In 1936, the cast iron kiosk was replaced by a classical style construction by the architects Antoine Chanet and Jean Liogier. Today, the waters of the Eugénie and Saint Mart springs are consumed in the hall of the spa.
Hot springs have been used to soothe and heal since antiquity, as evidenced by the many vestiges uncovered in the 19th century: ex-voto of the Roches spring, Roman wells, swimming pools and more. The Roman baths, discovered during the construction of the railway viaduct, consist of three large pools and four rooms heated by the ground. Fragments of different coloured marble, mosaics and bronze testify to the presence of luxurious decorations. Today, only a swimming pool with terraces and hemicycles is still visible.
Saint Mart Pavilion
The Saint Mart Pavilion was built in 1912 by the architect Louis Jarrier. The central pavilion, topped with a dome, led to treatment rooms for baths for legs and feet, covered with a roof terrace. Protected by a traditional roof in 1937, the pavilion was permanently closed for treatments in 1980.
A delicate mosaic adorns the entryway. The emblem, the coats of arms of Saint Mart and the bulrush fountain are made of Briare enamel, while the bottom is in porcelain stoneware.
Visit the resort
3 itineraries on the brochure with a map and description in French of the stages of the walk :
- The spa town during the belle époque (1 hr / 1.6 km)
- From the spa park to the centre of the village of Royat (1 hr / 1.4 km)
- From the spa park to the centre of Chamalières (1 hr 30 min / 2.7 km)
Document available at the Tourist Office of Royat Chamalières
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