The architecture found in Saint-Gaudens shows that the city was prosperous throughout its history and that local craftsmen were highly skilled.
There are many examples to be seen on the façades: metal or wooden pelmets to conceal the blinds, wrought-iron guardrails, window-frames decorated in wood or stone.
Furthermore, the materials used, grey stone, marble and wood from the Pyrenees, pebbles from the Garonne, ochre-tinted stone from the hills and piedmont, all testify to Saint-Gaudens’s geographical position, a crossroads at the heart of the Pyrenees and on the border of Gascony.
Saint-Gaudens, down the centuries ...
There are two architectural styles to be found in the heart of the city:
- There are tall buildings, extending well back from the street, that are reminders of the city’s mediaeval period, with plain façades to which balconies were added at the end of the 19th Century.
- Then there are more prosperous-looking buildings, including some very fine town houses, some of them dating back to the 18th Century and decorated with stone carvings.
Some buildings, put up after certain streets were widened at the end of the 19th Century, have façades with pediments, friezes and cornices, mouldings and gabled dormer windows.
On Boulevard Bepmale, the façades that face the Sun, with a view of the Pyrenees, have balconies and galleries up to their very top floors.
The architecture of the old town
The mediaeval ramparts, started in the 11th Century and extended in the 14th, consisted of walls 5 or 6 metres high, built of stones from the riverbed cemented with lime.
Rue Victor Hugo
Beyond the old 11th Century Gateway to the Barri Bigourdan (barri = quarter or neighbourhood) where Rue Victor Hugo now meets Rue des Fossés, the Royal Road began that bisected the old mediaeval centre around the Collegiate Church. Some houses date from the 18th Century with magnificent internal staircases with well-crafted ironwork, as with the guardrails on the balconies. There are also a few quite unusual doorknockers.
Rue des Fossés
Built over the old western rampart after the walls were demolished and the moat filled in. The 19th Century Halle aux Grains stands at the corner with Rue de la République.
Rue des Remparts
The street was built in the space freed by demolition of the ramparts and includes several wood-framed buildings.
Half-timbering provides a lighter structure which can be extended by overhangs and wooden doors. It was common in the 16th Century.
An architectural feature of half-timbered houses in the Comminges is the presence of external galleries. They provided maximum sunlight to the southern façade, combining protection with the pleasure of being outdoors. They also occasionally provided communication between different parts of the building.