AskDefine | Define Vichy

Dictionary Definition

Vichy n : a town in central France (south of Paris) noted for hot mineral springs; was capital of the unoccupied part of France during World War II

User Contributed Dictionary


Proper noun

  1. A town in Auvergne, France, the capital of Vichy France during the World War II


  • French: Vichy

Extensive Definition

For other uses, see Vichy (disambiguation).
Vichy (Occitan: Vichèi ) is a commune in the department of Allier in Auvergne in central France. It is known as a spa and resort town. The inhabitants are known as Vichyssois. It was the de facto capital of Vichy France during the World War II Nazi German occupation from 1940 to 1944. It has a population of 26,528 (1999).


Vichy lies on the banks of the Allier River. The source of the Allier is in the nearby Massif Central Mountain range which lies only a few miles to the south, near the region's capital Clermont-Ferrand. Heavy snows in the Massif Central often make roads impassable, but Vichy is low enough at 817 feet that climate is more continental. Rainfall is moderate, averaging 30 inches annually.
Historical existence of volcanic activity in the Massif Central is more visually evident. Volcanic eruptions have been around for at least 150,000 years ago, but have been dormant for 112 years. Such as in the towns of Le Puy-en-Velay, volcanic activity is the direct cause of the many thermal springs that exist in Vichy.


Roman Era

In 52 B.C., on returning from their defeat at the Battle of Gergovia by the Gallic legions of Vercingetorix, the Romans established a township at their crossing on the Flumen Elaver (Allier). These Roman settlers had acknowledged the therapeutic value of the Springs in the area and were eager to exploit them. During the first two centuries AD, Vichy was very prosperous because of these thermal springs.
At the end of the 3rd century, the Roman Emperor Diocletian undertook a vast administrative reorganization and land-survey. At that time the place name VIPIACUS first appeared (name of an agricultural field belonging to a certain VIPIUS) which, by phonetic evolution, became VICHIACUS, then in occitan Vichier still pronounced today [vi'she] [vi'shje], and wrote VICHY in French.

Middle Ages

On September 2, 1344, Jean II ceded the noble fiefdom of Vichy to Duke Pierre I of Bourbon. On December 6, 1374, the last part of Vichy was acquired by Louis II, Duke of Bourbon. At that point Vichy was incorporated into the House of Bourbon. In 1410, a Celestinian monastery was founded with twelve monks. A building located above the Celestinian Spring is still visible.
In 1527, the House of Bourbon was incorporated into the French Kingdom. By the end of the 16th century, the mineral baths had obtained a reputation for having quasi-miraculous curing powers and attracted patients from the noble and wealthy classes. Government officials, such as Fouet and Chomel, began to classify the curing properties of the mineral baths.

Vichy's Thermal Baths - path to fame

The marquise de Sévigné, was a patient in 1676 and 1677 and would popularize Vichy's Thermal Baths through the written descriptions in her letters. The Vichy waters were said to have cured the paralysis in her hands, thus enabling her to take up the letter-writing for which she is most famous. In 1761 and 1762, Adélaïde and Victoire of France, the daughters of Louis XV, came to Vichy for the first time and returned in 1785. The Bath facilities seemed extremely uncomfortable to them because of the muddy surroundings and insufficient access. When they returned to Versailles, they asked their nephew Louis XVI to build roomier and more luxurious thermal baths, which were subsequently completed in 1787.
In 1799, Laetitia Bonaparte, mother of Napoleon, came to be cured with her son Louis. Under the Empire, Le Parque des Sources was arranged under the Emperor's orders. (Decree of Gumbinen of 1812).
Under Charles X, the great increase in patients wishing to be healed at the springs led to an expansion of the Hydrotheraputic facilities. Princess Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte expanded the Janson buildings under the plan of Rose - Beauvais (work completed in 1830.) From 1844 to 1853, theatrical and poetry recitals were performed for the wealthy in the comfort of their own homes by Isaac Strauss.

Vichy in Style

By the 19th century, Vichy was a station à la mode, attended by many celebrities. But the stays of Napoleon III between 1861 and 1866 were to cause the most profound transformation of the city: dykes were built along the Allier river, 13 hectares (33 acres) of landscaped gardens replaced the old marshes, and along the newly laid out boulevards and streets, chalets and pavillions were built for the Emperor and his court. Recreational pursuits were not spared: in view of the Park, a large casino was built by the architect Badger in 1865. The emperor would be the catalyst of the development of a small rail station which multiplied the number of inhabitants and visitors by ten in fifty years.
After the Second French Empire, the Belle Époque marked the second large construction campaign in Vichy. In 1903 the Opera, the Hall of Springs and a large bath done in the eastern style were inaugurated. In 1900, the Parc des Sources was enclosed by a metal gallery which came from the World Fair of 1889. 700 meters (2,300 feet) long, it is decorated by a frise de chardons and was completed by the ironworker Emile Robert. Many private mansions with varied architectural styles were erected during the first half of the 20th century.
Vichy welcomed 40,000 curistes in 1900 and nearly 100,000 on just before the onset of the First World War. The thermal life had its apex in the Thirties. The success in treating health ailements attributed to the Vichy Baths led la Compagnie Fermière to enlarge the Baths again by creating the Callou and Lardy Baths. The Art Nouveau-style Opera, inaugurated in 1903, accommodated all the great names of the international scenes. Vichy became the summertime music capital of France, but the war of 1914 would put a brutal end to this development.

Vichy France - Seat of the État Français, the Nazi collaborationist Government

Main article: Vichy France
Following the armistice signed on June 22, 1940, the zone which was not occupied by the Germans took the name of the French State (État Français) (as opposed to the traditional name, République française or French Republic ) and set up its capital in Vichy on July 1, because of the town's relative proximity to Paris (4.5 hours by train) and because it was the city with the second largest hotel capacity at the time. Moreover, the existence of an ultramodern telephone exchange (the current hotel had only been built in 1935) made it possible to reach the whole world by a phone call.
On July 1, the government took possession of many hotels. 600 members of Parliament (Appointed members and Senators) would join Vichy for the meeting of the Chambers. On the 9th and 10th, in the room of the Opera, the members of Parliament voted for the end of the Third Republic. The republican system was abolished, and the French State, with Philippe Pétain at its helm as Head of State replaced it. Only 80 of the 600 members of Parliament voiced their opposition. Starting from this date, Vichy would be, for more than four years, the capital of the French State. This government is often called the Vichy Regime. The preferred term is "Pétainist Regime" or "Regime of the French State." The term "Vichyste," which designates partisans of this regime, should not be confused with "Vichyssois" which designates the inhabitants of the city. The latter term is sometimes used erroneously to designate Pétain's supporters.

Reine des villes d'eaux

The Fifties and Sixties would be the most ostentatious period for Vichy, complete with parading personalities, visits from crowned heads (The Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakech, Prince Rainier of Monaco) and profits from the massive arrival of North African French clients, who holidayed in Vichy spending lavishly. There were thirteen cinemas (which sometimes showed special previews), eight dance halls, and three theatres. It was at this period that the station would take the title of "Reine des villes d'eaux." From June to September, so many French-Algerian tourists were arriving that it almost seemed like there was an airlift set up between Vichy-Charmeil and the aerodromes of Algeria. Mayor Pierre Coulon (1950-1967) decided to create Lake Allier (June 10, 1963) and Omnisports Park (1963-68), giving the city its current look.


The war in Algeria, following decolonisation, marked once again a brutal halt in prosperity for the city, which from then on had to deal with much less favourable conditions. The need to continue to pay the debts incurred by the considerable investments that had been made in happier times obliged the new mayor Jacques Lacarin (1967-1989), successor of Pierre Coulon, to adopt a much more careful policy of management.

Modern Revival

Claude Malhuret, former Minister of Human Rights, born in Strasbourg in 1950, has been mayor since 1989. He and Bernard Kouchner are the cofounders of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières.) The City and its economic partners started and concluded an important program of restoration and modernization. These projects include:
  • Creation of vast pedestrian zone in the city center
  • a program of modernization
  • upgrading of hotels to the sector standards
  • rebuilding and restoration of the thermal baths
  • realization of a center for balneotherapy dedicated to wellbeing
  • development of the architectural heritage
  • realization of a center of congress within the old Casino
  • restoration of the Opera.


Source: Site essentiel sur la ville


The city has been known for its thermal cures since Roman times. Its waters are famous worldwide (coming from springs, including the Vichy Celestins and Vichy Saint-Yorre) but lozenges made from soda contained in the spring waters are also famous.
The health and beauty business, with the laboratories of the L'Oréal company, also make it possible to publicise the city's name to a worldwide audience under the Vichy brand. (This French website discusses the history of this brand.)
Unlike the neighbouring communes on the Allier, such as industrial Montluçon and administrative seat Moulins, Vichy's economy is centred on the tertiary sector and aims at the development of the health and well-being sector to mitigate the decline of medical hydrotherapy. The local market open on Sundays, attracts purchasers from tens of kilometers around.
The closing of two important local employers, Manurhin and Sediver, threatens employment in the Vichy basin. Job creation by developing companies such as NSE (electronics) or Satel (call centre) will not compensate for the removal of jobs which will result from this, despite the Internet tour operator Karavel ( establishing a new call centre in May 2005, which was forecast to create 300 jobs over 3 years.
Nevertheless, the three most important employers of the city belong to the public sector; the hospital (1120 employees), the town hall (720) and the college of Presles (370).
Pôle University and Lardy Technology, born from a project of thermal waste land rehabilitation and launched during the mid-nineties, is an economic priority. This 9,000 m² campus accommodates 600 students in the downtown area, in ten areas of study including the fields of biotechnology, international trade, multi-media and languages. The CAVILAM (Centre of Live Approaches to Languages and the Media), created in Vichy in 1964, is now installed with Pôle-Lardy.
The Palace of the congresses is a venue primarily for the conferences of trade associations and learned societies. The structure is 1,800 m² large, including two plenary rooms and fifteen multi-use rooms. With 25,000 visitors yearly, the conferences must now carry the economic role once held by the hydrotherapy, which today counts only 12,000 patients each year. The hydrotherapy business will now have to reorganise itself to take a less strict therapeutic-only role, and re-orient itself for patients' stays shorter than the traditional 3 weeks.

Current Building Projects

Currently, under the authority of the local communities, much work is being done on building sites and projects, which will deeply modify Vichy in the years to come. Some believe that construction by the Hotel of the Community of Agglomeration in September 2005 on the old site of the "Commercial City" may precede the total restoration of the market hall (which would cost €5.9 Million) which would be delivered in September 2006. Some also note the creation of a 12 000 m² mother-child centre in the hospital complex, the restoration of the spa façade (removal of the metal boarding to uncover the original style of 1862), the transformation of the spa into a multi-use center, creation of parks with fountains in place of parking lots, the demolition and the transformation of the buildings in a congested area to create an enterprise center intended to create 800 jobs (opening of the site envisioned at the end of 2007), the construction of a new aquatic stadium including 5 basins (initially envisaged to cost €14.3 million but may end up costing €20 Million) whose delivery is envisaged with the autumn 2007, and finally motorway connection in 2011.
This French website gives key economic figures for the Vichy area.



Vichy was the birthplace of:

Twin towns

Vichy is twinned with:


External links

Vichy in Arabic: فيشي
Vichy in Asturian: Vichy
Vichy in Bulgarian: Виши
Vichy in Catalan: Vichèi
Vichy in Cebuano: Vichy
Vichy in Czech: Vichy
Vichy in Danish: Vichy
Vichy in German: Vichy
Vichy in Spanish: Vichy
Vichy in Esperanto: Vichy
Vichy in French: Vichy
Vichy in Korean: 비시 (프랑스)
Vichy in Indonesian: Vichy
Vichy in Italian: Vichy
Vichy in Dutch: Vichy (Allier)
Vichy in Japanese: ヴィシー
Vichy in Norwegian: Vichy
Vichy in Norwegian Nynorsk: Vichy
Vichy in Occitan (post 1500): Vichèi
Vichy in Polish: Vichy
Vichy in Portuguese: Vichy
Vichy in Romanian: Vichy
Vichy in Russian: Виши
Vichy in Slovenian: Vichy
Vichy in Finnish: Vichy
Vichy in Swedish: Vichy
Vichy in Vietnamese: Vichy
Vichy in Turkish: Vichy
Vichy in Volapük: Vichy
Vichy in Chinese: 维琪
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1