(c) 1998 - BR/AVSE    

English version


You'll be surprised

By history !




The museum of old Saint-Etienne is located in a 17 th century townhouse (a listed monument ) on a narrow passageway
 . You can discover the unusual history of France's first industrial city and admire the museum's lovely courtyard and garden .
 Learn about the history of Saint-Etienne from its origins to the 19th century in a building with remarkable 17th and 18th century architecture (especially the panelled ceiling and other woodwork)

Adress :

Hôtel de Villeneuve

13 bis, rue Gambetta


Téléphone : (33) 4 77 25 74 32

Télécopie : (33) 4 77 38 17 28

E. mail : Pour nous écrire ...

opening times :
Tuesday to Saturday 2h30 to 6h pm
closed on Sundays, mondays and bank-holidays
transport :
tramline 4 stop at St Louis
groups :
telephone booking : (33) 4-77-25-74-32


- come-back - accueil du musée



You'll be surprised

By history !




Founded by Doctor Riou and Father Dorna, the association of the Friends of the Old St Etienne (Les Amis du Vieux Saint-Etienne) celebrated its sixtieth anniversary in 1990. The town now and most of the mansion ; the building was bought so as to accomodate our association

Enter of the museum …


According to the "Gagats legend" written in XIX century, Saint-Etienne would come from celtie people called the "metallurges", settled in a village "Furania" along the river "Furan".


 A presentation of the site of St Etienne, with the Furan valley surrounded by hills.


The town as it used to be in C15, surrounded by fortified walls.

As can be seen, in those days the town used to occupy half of an oval shaped place, the limits of which were the Place du Pré de la Foire (the square of the green of the fair), the Rue des Fossés (Ditches street), Saint Catherine's street, Boivin Square, Le Mont d'Or street, Saint Marc's slope and Ronsard's street.

A portrait representing Marcellin Allard and his wife (Hélène de Roassieu). The latter wears a "fraise" or (frilled collar). Marcellin allard (C16) was a "stéphanois" writer at time the Relogious Wars ; he used to write sometimes in local dialect and sometimes in french. His book called "La Gazette françoise" is of ribald inspiration.

Since the XVII century, Saint-Etienne is well known for its locksmithing, its construction of metal pieces, ... You can still see some rests of these different productions in many private parisian hotels, which were built during that period.

The 1773 map (which was made for the Lord of Saint-Priest who at the time was the owner of Saint-Etienne) represents the centre of the parish only, but the latter was immense.


The streets surrounding the old walls can clearly be seen. Look at the East-West lay-out of the borough ; the latter was then a stopping-place on the highway from Lyon to Le Puy. You would arrive via rue de Lyon (Lyon street, nowadays called Pierre Bérard street) and would go to Firminy and Le Puy through the district of Roannelle.


A lot of bays would divert the water from the Furan river in order to provide power to the various plans and factories : silk mills, grain mills, grinding mills, metal work factories. The people of the time began to cover the Furan river at Place du Peuple (people square) and some cases, places along the bay enabled the inhabitants to keep the fish fresh on market days.


The town, like all others in France, was surrounded at the time by religious estates (those of the Dames de Ste Catherine, of the Visitandines, the Ursulines and the Minimes wons of the Capuchin Friars...). During the revolution these properties were bought back which enabled the town to develop.


On the stained glass window you can see the arms of the town which can be explained as follows : the crown represents the King's protection - the palms remind us of St Stephen's martyrdom (St Steohen = St Etienne) - the three crosses (with the stones on them, are meant to recall the stones of the saint's torture : he was the first martyr to be stoned to death.

At the time of the Revolution, on the lands of the Ladies of St-Catherine's convent, Dal Gabio, an architect of the town, planned to create a Grand'rue (a Highway) along the North-South axis, in order to link St-Etienne with Roanne and Paris (1792).

This is why the East-west axis of St-Etienne soon became a north-south one, thus following the axis of the valley.

Thanks to its coal basin, Saint-Etienne was the first town in France to have its own railway. The latter, built in 1828, linked the Loire valley to the Paris area, and made the transportation of coal easier.

On top of a few traces of this first line, this railway line (called " fish stomach line") can still be seen today. This line was extended in1831 towards Lyon, thus allowing the transportation of passengers too, as this train-ticket, dated 1834, testifies.


The room contains souvenirs of the textile industry. The collection of woven paintings may be humble, yet it enables us to recall this activity which was so typical of Saint-Etienne ; a model loom recalls the days of the Jacquard looms.

The beautiful library, decorated with lions, comes from the Giron House, a velvet and ribbon mill. You can admire there a few beautiful ribbons, among them some woven painting which represent a specific activity for Saint-Etienne.

 After the French Revolution the town developped very fast. As early as 1820 the population increased. The industrial revolution settled in the number of metal factories increased along the Furan river.

And yet the town itself remained very small whilst vast parishes existed around it (eg : Valbenoite, Montaud, Outre-furan, Beaubrun...).

Not until 1856 were these parishes joined to St-Etienne ; the town then became the "chef-lieu" of the department that is to say chief county town.


 The most important event of this century is the coal mining development : more than two hundreds of coal wells in Saint-Etienne : some photographs allow us to visualize what was the town aspect.

The coal basin in Saint-Etienne was the first French one : a lot of experimentations have been done in the social part : (trade unions, mutualist).

 According to the exhibits, we will talk about some famous "stephanois" or about the richness of the cultural, artistical life or maybe it is told about the old times typical sceneries.

Sall we underline the importance of the "gaga" dialect, among the XIX and XX centuries and the important place took by the song in the labour world.




- Come back - accueil du MUSEE -


Mise à jour : 13.12.2001


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© Les Amis du Vieux Saint-Etienne (Association loi de 1901 fondée en 1929) (site web créé en août 1998)
Hôtel de Villeneuve – 13 bis, rue Gambetta – F.42000 SAINT-ETIENNE – FRANCE - Tél. (33) 4 77 25 74 32 – Fax (33) 4 77 38 17 28
Mél : Pour nous écrire ... - Site Web : http://www.histoireetpatrimoinedesaintetienne.com – Webmaster : B. Rivatton