The Castle of Alleuze

What the names of Alleuze say

The Great Times of Alleuze

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The Names of the Villages

With the Dictionnaire Topographique du Département du Cantal, published by Emile Amé in 1897, we can follow the old names of the villages of Alleuze. Several words change a lot, which may be due to writers' incertitude during the past centuries, but also to the linguistic system they used; for example, in middle French, [oi] was pronounced [wè] even though in old French, these letters were pronounced separately (o/i) and in modern French, they are pronounced [wa]. The situation is more complex if we add the graphic habits of the dialect of oc (in the south of France) and of Medieval Latin...

The Castle of Alleuze seen from the Plateau of La Barge, the main hamlet. Photograph by Marc Duval, February, 1999.
The Castle of Alleuze seen from the Plateau of La Barge, the main hamlet. Photograph by Marc Duval.

The Origin of the Names

For the vast majority of the villages of Alleuze, the etymology is not clear. Some of those names can be traced back to the Gallic period, and perhaps before. Others are clearly Latin or Occitan. The Dictionnaire des Noms de Lieux, by Dauzat and Rostaing, give useful indications, but is sometimes inconsistent with other specialised books, like Les Noms de Villes et de Villages, by Eric Vial (Belin publishing house, 1983). That is the reason why these links given below must be taken carefully: they are more questions than certitude...

But the general feeling remains - the names are very old. One of them at least goes back to the Gallic (maybe pre-Gallic) period. Others go back to the Gallo-Roman era. And the latest words are based on Latin or Occitan roots.

Alleuze - may be the deformation of the word allodium, which in medieval Latin indicates the alleu, that is to say the freehold land, whose lord has no suzerain. The medieval manuscripts show that there were several allodia in this area. And the graphy [z] is probably the trace of an ancient [d-s]... The word alleu comes from the Germanic alod, come with the Invasions.
Several people suggest a link with a word from Gallic origin, alauda, the lark (French word alouette). It seems not pertinent.

The Castle of Alleuze. Photo : Pierre Soissons.
The Castle of Alleuze seen by Pierre Soissons.

La Barge - very probably represents the Gallic barga, the slope.

Barry - several villages of France have this name. It seems to come from a Gallic root, maybe pre-Gallic, bar-, which indicates the top, the hill, and on which is added a suffix -ium. That gave in Occitan the word barri, frequently used to indicate the rampart.

Bessols - probably linked with a lot of Besse, frequent in the area, and coming from a Gallic root bettu-, the birch-tree (French word bouleau).

Fontberline - in Occitan dialect as well as in old French, font indicates the spring (from Latin fons, fontis, f.). But the second part is obscure. Is there a link with berula, water-cress (French word berle)? We must remain careful, for the most frequent occurrence of this name is font-raurline, with an -r-.The cause could be a copyist's error or the trace of an other old word, which is very different.

Languiroux - unknown origin. Is it linked with a name of a Gallo-Roman lord, like it is the case of Langeac (< *Langius, from Gallic Langus) or of Langoiran (<*Lingorius, from Gallic Lingos or Licorius)?

Lestournels - a link with the French étourneau (starling) is tempting, but doubtful.

Noux - probably has no link with Nods, La Noue, La Noë, etc., for all these villages are located in the northern part of France; they suppose a boggy place (<nauda, bog). The final letter -x may be the rest of a final -c, which suggests a place with walnut-trees (lat. naucarium, walnut-tree < nux, nucis, walnut).

Le Salès - has the same origin as the name of the town of Salers (Salernum, from a Celtic root sal- indicating a river and a suffix -ernu-)?

Surgit - was written Surgy in the last century; does it come from the name of a Gallo-Roman landlord, like others villages having the same name (Surgy, in the Nièvre, comes from Sorgi-acus, land of Sorgius)? Or should we think of the deformation of cerasus, Latin word for cherry-tree (French word cerisier), this word being the base of Surgères, in the Department of the Charentes-Maritimes?

Védrines - dictionaries usually speak of the medieval Latin word vitrina, glass-making (French word verrerie), for all the villages having that name. But some linguists suggest as more probable a name coming from veterina, indicating a flock (vetus, veteris, n. in classical Latin).

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The Saint-Illide Chapel, near the Castle of Alleuze.  Photo : Marc Duval.
The Saint-Illide Chapel, near the Castle of Alleuze. Photograph by Marc Duval.

The Chapel of the Castle is consecrated to Saint Illide. Illide or Elide died a martyr in 676. In those years, there was a quarrel between Saint Prix, bishop of Clermont, and the Count Hector of Marseilles. The latter was condemned to death by Clotaire II, but his family wanted to avenge him. An ambush was laid for Saint Prix as he was coming back to Clermont, accompanied by abbot Damarin and an acolyte, Elide. The soldiers made a mistake and killed the abbot. Then Saint Prix revealed his identity and he too was killed. The soldiers also killed Elide, the only one of the escort who did not run away.

From René Crozet, les Saints d'Auvergne, De Borée publishing house, 1966.



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