The Medieval Fair in the small town of Souvigny in the centre of France is undoubtedly one of the most atmospheric, authentic and fun-filled of its type. This small, but important, town – just about 12 miles from Vichy – hosts more than a week of spectacular medieval pageantry that attracts thousands of visitors to supplement the 2,000 permanent inhabitants.
Souvigny was once the capital of the Auvergne region of France and has great significance in the history of the Bourbon dynasty. Architecturally the town is a treasure trove, with a Romanesque church from the 12 century, the impressive Priory, the comprehensive museums and the beautifully preserved Medieval gardens. These and other features led to the town being designated as a Great Regional Site of Auvergne in 1993.
Always popular with cultural tourists, at the heart of the Bocage Bourbonnais, Souvigny now is able to capitalise on this position by hosting its annual medieval Fair at the beginning of August each year. The whole community comes alive with the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of medieval life, with thousands of people enjoying the special atmosphere of the streets.
Music and theatre, of course, are at the core of the activities. In addition to troubadours wandering the streets, there are many concerts that take place in the forecourt of the Priory, outside the taverns or in the more formal Salle Saint-Marc. Street theatre – featuring juggling, stilt walking, fire-eating, puppets and general ribaldry – is going on all of the time.
Medieval jousting and sporting events, along with equestrian and falconry displays, take place every day and, at nights, in front of the Priory, there is a spectacular Fire Show. Children are well catered for as there are many opportunities for them to try their hand at pottery, juggling, stilt walking, making up and most of the other activities.
Many of the events in the programme of the Foire Medieval are free of charge, although there is a small charge for some of the evening shows and tournaments and the always popular Medieval Circus. There are, additionally, several much more formal occasions that further explore the unique medieval atmosphere. For example, the Salle Saint-Marc hosts a Grand Costumed Medieval Banquet as well as various other Ripailles which give visitors the opportunity of dressing up and really becoming an integral part of this special event.
Souvigny does not have its own train station, the closest being at the attractive nearby town of Moulins, which also has a wider range of hotels. This part of France, of course, is well-known for its self catering and gite accommodation. There are no airports in the close vicinity of the town; the nearest being Limoges, Tours and St Etienne which are all a good two hours away. Those wishing to travel by car will have a journey of about five hours from the Channel ports, much of it by motorway, if you so choose.
If you are interested in medieval life, French culture or just having a good time then the Foire Medieval gives you a wonderful opportunity of indulging yourself in a memorable way. The official website of the Medieval Fair of Souvigny is the first place to confirm dates of the event for next year.