Clermont-Ferrand (Auvergnat Occitan: Clarmont-Ferrand / Clarmont d'Auvèrnhe) is a city and commune of France, in the Auvergne region, with a population of 141,569 (2012). Its metropolitan area had 467,178 inhabitants at the 2011 census. It is the prefecture (capital) of the Puy-de-Dôme department. Olivier Bianchi is its current mayor.
Clermont-Ferrand sits on the plain of Limagne in the Massif Central and is surrounded by a major industrial area. The city is famous for the chain of volcanoes, the Chaîne des Puys surrounding it. The famous dormant volcano Puy de Dôme ( from the city) is one of the highest of these and well known for the telecommunication antennas that sit on its top and are visible from far away.
Clermont-Ferrand is also famous for hosting the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, one of the world's leading international festivals for short films, the Festival du Court Metrage de Clermont-Ferrand, as well as the corporate headquarters of Michelin, the global tyre company created more than 100 years ago in the city.
Clermont-Ferrand's most famous public square is Place de Jaude, on which stands a grand statue of Vercingetorix sitting imperiously on a horse and holding a sword. The inscription reads: J'ai pris les armes pour la liberté de tous. This statue was sculpted by Frédéric Bartholdi, who also created the Statue of Liberty.
Clermont-Ferrand’s first name was Augusto Nemetum. It was born on the central knoll where the cathedral is situated today, known then as Nemossos. It overlooked the capital of Gaulish Avernie. The fortified castle of Clarus Mons gave its name to the whole town in 848, to which the small episcopal town of Montferrand was attached in 1731, together taking the name of Clermont-Ferrand. The old part of Clermont is delimited by the route of the ramparts, as they existed at the end of the Middle Ages. The town of Clermont-Ferrand came about with the joining together of two separate towns, Clermont and Montferrand, which was decreed by Louis XIII and confirmed by Louis XV.
Prehistoric and Roman
Clermont ranks among the oldest cities of France. The first known mention was by the Greek geographer Strabo, who called it the "metropolis of the Arverni" (meaning their oppidum, civitas or tribal capital). The city was at that time called Nemessos – a Gaulish word for a sacred forest, and was situated on the mound where the current cathedral of Clermont-Ferrand has been constructed. It was somewhere in the area around Nemossos that the Arverni chieftain Vercingetorix (later to head a unified Gallic resistance to Roman invasion under Julius Caesar) was born in around 72 BC. Also, Nemossos was situated not far from the plateau of Gergovia, where Vercingetorix pushed back the Roman assault at the Battle of Gergovia in 52 BC. After the Roman conquest, the city became known as Augustonemetum sometime in the 1st century, a name which combined its original Gallic name with that of the Emperor Augustus. Its population was estimated at 15,000–30,000 in the 2nd century, making it one of the largest cities of Roman Gaul. It then became Arvernis in the 3rd century (taking its name, like other Gallic cities in this era, from the people who lived within its walls), and expanded until the mid 3rd century.
Early Middle Ages
The city became the seat of a bishop in the 5th century, at the time of the bishop Namatius or Saint Namace, who built a cathedral here described by Gregory of Tours. Clermont went through a dark period after the disappearance of the Roman Empire and during the whole High Middle Ages, marked by pillaging by the peoples who invaded Gaul. Between 471 and 475, Auvergne was often the target of Visigothic expansion, and the city was frequently besieged, including once by Euric. Although defended by Sidonius Apollinaris, at the head of the diocese from 468 to 486, and the patrician Ecdicius, the city was ceded to the Visigoths by emperor Julius Nepos in 475 and became part of the Visigothic kingdom until 507. A generation later, it became part of the kingdom of the Franks. On 8 November 535 the first Council of Clermont opened at Arvernis (Clermont), with fifteen bishops participating, including Caesarius of Arles, Nizier of Lyons (bishop of Trèves) and Saint Hilarius, bishop of Mende. Sixteen decrees were made there, notably the second canon that recalls that the granting of episcopal dignity must be according to the merits and not as a result of intrigues.
In 570, Bishop Avitus offered the Jews of his town (who numbered over 500) the alternatives of baptism or expulsion.
In 848, the city was renamed Clairmont, after the castle Clarus Mons. During this era, it was an episcopal city ruled by its bishop. Clermont was not spared by the Vikings at the time of the weakening of the Carolingian Empire: it was ravaged by the Normans under Hastein or Hastingen in 862 and 864 and, while its bishop Sigon carried out reconstruction work, again in 898 (or 910, according to some sources). Bishop Étienne II built a new Roman cathedral on the site of the current cathedral, consecrated in 946 but (apart from the towers, only replaced by the current ones in the 19th century, and some parts of the crypt, still visible) destroyed to build the current Gothic cathedral.
Clermont was the starting point of the First Crusade, in which Christendom sought to free Jerusalem from Muslim domination: Pope Urban II preached the crusade there in 1095, at the Second Council of Clermont. In 1120, following repeated crises between the counts of Auvergne and the bishops of Clermont and in order to counteract the clergy's power, the counts founded the rival city of Montferrand on a mound next to the fortifications of Clermont, on the model of the new cities of the Midi springing up in the 12th and 13th centuries. Until the early modern period, the two remained separate cities: Clermont, an episcopal city; Montferrand, a comital one.
Early Modern and Modern eras
Clermont became a royal city in 1551, and in 1610, the inseparable property of the Crown. On 15 April 1630 the Edict of Troyes (the First Edict of Union) forcibly joined the two cities of Clermont and Montferrand. This union was confirmed in 1731 by Louis XV with the Second Edict of Union. At this time, Montferrand was no more than a satellite city of Clermont, in which condition it remained until the beginning of the 20th century. Wishing to retain its independence, Montferrand made three demands for independence, in 1789, 1848, and 1863.
In the 20th century, construction of the Michelin factories and of city gardens, which shaped the modern Clermont-Ferrand, definitively reunited Clermont and Montferrand. But even today, although the two cities have been amalgamated, one may find in Clermont-Ferrand two distinct downtowns, and Montferrand still retains a strong identity.