Paray-le-Monial - Saône-&-Loire


Stage no. 3: by Mathieu

Through the eyes of members of the Thomas Family (Mathieu, 37 years old / Marion, 38 / Marius, 13 / Margaux, 10), experience Southern Burgundy's 9 "must-stops" as a sequence of episodes for a total immersion as intense as it is unforgettable…

Les incontournables de Saône-et-Loire
La famille Thomas - © DSL/vectorfusionart

"This basilica is stunning, no doubt the most beautiful priory church still "active" to this day (and by "active" I insist that the place actually effuses vibrations inside for those able to admire it appropriately).

This stopover in Paray-le-Monial was my day to choreograph, and I was given a good amount of lead time to ensure the visit went well. Moreover, returning here as part of a pilgrimage sounds quite appealing. It was easy to get my bearings as this site emanates such a wonderful aura, I'm overwhelmed.

Paray-le-Monial : basilique du Sacré Coeur, chevet - Saône-et-Loire Tourisme
Paray-le-Monial: Sacré-Coeur Basilica - Saône-et-Loire - © OT Paray-le-Monial

Lovers of art and history know it well: the Paray-le-Monial Romanesque Basilica, with its remarkable apse, is a reduced-scale replica of the Cluny abbatial church. And what a replica it is!

Undoubtedly less well known however is the omnipresence of the number 3 in the building's organization. That's the kind of "detail" I find fascinating:

  • 3 naves composed of
  • 3 spans built over
  • 3 vaults and then
  • 3 windows further on,
  • or even its 3 smaller apses radiating outward (think of small chapels laid out in a semicircle) from the choir. You can really feel the magic on display. I'll stop for now with my math obsession.
  • Do take note of the Romanesque portals (especially on the north side) used to access the basilica, with their decorated columns and capitals, quite marvellous! On top of which, the number of these portals totals 3.
Paray-le-Monial : basilique du Sacré Coeur - Saône-et-Loire Tourisme
Paray-le-Monial: Sacré-Coeur basilica - Saône-et-Loire - © OT Paray-le-Monial


The space draws you into a meditative state once you've come to terms with letting everything go, if only for a short while.

One quickly understands why this is such a sacred pilgrimage site, why folks the world over choose it as a destination: its cobblestone streets, dazzling City Hall, half-timbered homes, the Saint-Nicolas Tower, architectural gems dispersed throughout. But more than sites to see, these are places to behold, places that oxygenate our spirit.

You'll also love Paray-le-Monial for…


  • Its multiple pilgrimage sites, notably the Chapelle des Apparitions, Chapelle La Colombière, Chapelle Saint-Jean and the Chaplains' Park.
  • Guided tours of the Basilica: guided visits every day at 2:30 in July and August, audio-guides available all year round during Tourist Office opening hours.
  • The Hiéron and Paul Charnoz Museums: The former is a museum of sacred art renowned for its Romanesque portal from Anzy-le-Duc, 17th and 18th-century Italian paintings and the National Treasure of master craftsman jeweller Joseph Chaumet (who boasted the “Via Vitæ” collection); while the latter draws visitors for its collection of ceramic tiles, earning it the reputation as a centre of France's decorative and industrial ceramic arts.
Paray-le-Monial : musée du Hiéron - Saône-et-Loire Tourisme
Paray-le-Monial: Hiéron museum - Saône-et-Loire - © DSL Guênerie Sandrine


  • The "Mosaic City": By virtue of its large number of dedicated activities and venues, Paray-le-Monial has held the title of Mosaic City since 2011. The House of Contemporary Mosaics is an artistic centre with permanent exhibitions featuring mosaics; the facility is buzzing every year when mosaic training and practice sessions are hosted by famous artists in residence.
  • The sculpted Italianate facade of Paray's Renaissance-style Maison Jayet City Hall building, for the striking richness of its decorative sculptures.
Paray-le-Monial : façade sculptée de l'Hôtel de Ville, Maison Jayet - Saône-et-Loire Tourisme
Paray-le-Monial: Maison Jayet City Hall - Saône-et-Loire - © OT Paray-le-Monial
  • Greenways outings: on a bicycle or electric bike, head out along the former towpath restored as a cycling trail to discover Digoin and its canal bridge before continuing on to the spa town of Bourbon-Lancy. Here's another option: take off in a southerly direction via the former railway line moving upstream alongside the Loire in crossing Marcigny.

The Romanesque Roads

For aficionados of history and architecture like Mathieu, follow the Romanesque Roads route by car or on an electric bike leaving from Paray-le-Monial. You're sure to visit a good hundred Romanesque churches and chapels that have been tastefully preserved: extensive sculpted decorations, a powerful harmony in their proportions. In the midst of this exceptional Romanesque garden, a few precious specimens stand out: Anzy-le-Duc, Semur-en-Brionnais, Iguerande, Saint-Julien-de-Jonzy, to name but a few.

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Discover the other steps of these holidays: