Thiers et sa coutellerie qui s'exporte
Thiers un couteau une marque
Né de la réflexion commune de toute une profession, "Le Thiers" porte le nom de sa ville, Capitale Française de la Coutellerie.
Fabriqué au moyen de techniques industrielles les plus élaborées tout en utilisant un savoir faire artisanal irremplaçable, ce couteau, millésimé au talon, est garanti 5 ans contre tout défaut de fabrication.
Voici un petit article sur les Thiers .
Depuis que la coutellerie s’est implantée à Thiers, vraisembla-blement au XIVème siècle, la spécialisation de la ville et de son bassin pour cette activité ne s’est jamais démentie. Même si d’autres industries, telles que la papeterie ou la tannerie ont en leur temps participé à l’essor de cette cité, la coutellerie a toujours été dominante. Chaque quartier, chaque village, chaque portion de rivière porte les traces de cette histoire industrielle interrompue. Bien sûr, les processus de fabrication ont évolué, les lieux de travail se sont déplacés et l’organisation du travail s’est modernisée. Certaines transformations du paysage industriel sont anciennes, et des activités aujourd’hui éteintes nous ont légué de discrets vestiges . C’est le cas des tanneries et des papeteries, disparues respectivement aux XVIIIème et XIXème siècles. Plus récemment, l’électrification des usines et la mécanisation des métiers ont provoqué l’abandon de nombre de sites de production anciens. Ce début de XXIème siècle est marqué par des évolutions techniques notables qui touchent aussi bien la coutellerie que les activités nées de l’évolution des savoir-faire traditionnels, telles que la forge ou la plasturgie.
Les gorges de la Durolle offrent des paysages étonnants et contrastés qui témoignent des multiples activités ayant profité de l’énergie de cette petite rivière. Profitant de ses chutes d’eau et de son débit, les premiers ateliers hydrauliques (rodets) apparaissent au XVème siècle. Progressivement, papeteries, tanneries, martinets à étirer le fer, rouets d’émouleurs, et moulins à farine investissent le cours d’eau toujours plus en amont. Les tanneries disparaissent à la fin du XVIII ème siècle, et l’industrie papetière s’éteint à la fin du XIXème siècle. Les couteliers, jusqu’alors cantonnés à de petites usines en milieu urbain, investissent massivement ces anciens lieux de production. Turbines hydrauliques, systèmes de transmissions, machines de production font alors leur apparition dans les gorges de la Durolle. On assiste alors à l’évolution des procédés de fabrication et à la transformation architecturale des usines. Ensuite, au cours du XXème siècle, l’électrification de la ville et l’aménagement de zones industrielles en plaine incitent les entreprises à délaisser le site. Aujourd’hui, les gorges de la Durolle font l’objet d’un projet de valorisation, qui passe par le réaménagement d'anciennes usines et la création de sentiers thématiques.
Dans le domaine de la coutellerie industrielle, les techniques de fabrication actuelles connaissent une réelle modernisation. Les anciennes machines sont remplacées par des modèles récents et automatisés et des robots sont mis au point pour reproduire les gestes humains des opérations de finition. Grâce à cette mutation technologique, le bassin industriel de Thiers peut se prévaloir d’être aujourd’hui le principal fabricant français de coutellerie et outils tranchants, avec près de 70 % de la production nationale.
Vous y verrez une sélection de cartes postales anciennes
Dans cette page un article consacré aux anglo-phones
Thiers – French Capital of cutlery – Auvergne
The origins of Thiers
The origins of Thiers go back to the Celtic time as evidenced by the etymology of its name that meant ‘the chief’s house’.
Thiers developed in two distinct areas that gave birth to the upper town and lower town.
Thiernum, as the city was known during the Roman period, spread in the valley, on the left bank of the river near the current St-Symphorien Church, Pré de Foire and vestiges of the Moutier Abbey.
Located on the antic roadway connecting Lyon to Clermont-Ferrand it was an active place of exchange and circulation of goods between the peoples of the Limagne Plain and Monts du Forez.
Sixth century texts referred to Tigernum Castrum, a fortress that stood on the site of the current Pré à la Foire.
A second church dedicated to St-Genès was built on the hillside.
The Arab invasions of the 8th century forced the inhabitants to take refuge on the rocky spur near the church and within the ramparts of the fortress built there by the Barons of Thiers.
This migration of population gave birth to a new settlement.
Both villages kept expanding through the centuries.
The Quartier du Moutier stretched along the left bank of the river in the plain near the Moutier Abbey and St-Symphorien Church.
The inhabitants were placed under the jurisdiction of the abbey and that of the King of France after a treaty dating from the 13th century.
The upper town, the historic town with its noble half-timbered houses and narrow streets, unfold on the cliff next to St-Genès Church and the fortress.
It included the Quartier St-Jean, the cutlers’ district, which was under the jurisdiction of the Barons of Thiers.
This dual jurisdiction existed until the French Revolution!
The Barony of Thiers passed from the County Auvergne to the Duchy of Bourbon during the 14th century.
Thiers, the capital of cutlery
Uptown Thiers benefits from an exceptional location.
It is a hanging city clinging on the steep cliff side above the Durolle, a turbulent river which dug narrow canyons in the local granite.
Thiers has retained some ancient evocative place names such as “Bout du Monde – End of the World» ou « Creux de l’enfer – Depth of Hell” that you will discover from the many viewpoints located here and there.
The other side of the city faces the Limagne Plain that stretches to the north of Clermont-Ferrand.
Thiers though never had any place in the history of France.
As a result it doesn’t have an extensive architectural heritage but boasts some stunning religious and medieval buildings mostly listed as Historical Monuments.
Thiers is primarily the French capital of cutlery; it was and is a prosperous working, industrial and commercial city!
This tradition has been rooted since the 14th century but no one knows how the inhabitants of Thiers then discovered the secrets of metallurgy!
They had the Durolle and always produced charcoal, but their region was devoid of iron ore and sandstone used for the grindstones!
They tamed the turbulent Durolle and used its energy to power the wheels of their mills and forges built in the deep of the canyons.
Cutlery developed steadily until the 17th century when a large part of the production was already exported throughout the Mediterranean Basin, Europe, South Africa and even South America!
Flourishing related industries such as tanning and paper making appeared alongside.
Thiers was the most prosperous and important city of Auvergne in 16th and 17th centuries!
The memory of this thriving industrial past is reflected in the names of Rue de la Coutellerie – Cutlery St, Rue des Forgerons – Blacksmiths St, Rue des Usines – Factories St or Rue de l’Industrie – Industry St!
Thiers cutlers specialized in the manufacturing of regional folding knives, among which the most famous is undoubtedly the Laguiole.
The success of their industry reached its peak during the 19th century when half of knives used by the French peasant class came from Thiers.
The production became entirely industrialized.
It was fragmented and each step was entrusted to a workshop to meet the high demand for folding knives.
This resulted in the creation of a multitude of small specialized workshops scattered across the city but also in the surrounding villages.
The mass produced knives of Thiers were exported worldwide!
Cutleries and forges, however, left the banks of the Durolle by the end of the 19th century and migrated to the plain when electricity allowed them to overcome the driving force of the water.
Thiers cutlery industry is more than ever thriving and highly renown for it know-how.
Thiers’ two-hundred workshops produce more than two thirds of the national production of kitchen, pocket and table knives!
The blades have been engraved with Thiers’ trademark – the initial T engraved within a square – since 1994 at the initiative of the local Cutlers Brotherhood.
Those of you who are interested in knives will enjoy the annual Art Knife Festival which takes place in May.
La Vallée des Usines
La Vallée des Usines was the industrial heart of Thiers.
It is where industrial cutlery, paper mills and tanneries settled in the early 19th century in the deep of the Durolle Valley locally known as Creux de l’Enfer.
These impressive buildings, so representative of the industrial architecture of the era closed in the late 19th century but were rehabilitated!
You will find the Usines du Faux Martel, l’Usine du Pont de Seychalles and L’Usine de la Croix de Fer.
You will also discover impressive paper mills such as L’Ilot Navarron, Propriété de Crospailhat or the Forges Mondières which remained in operation until 1980 and are now listed as a Historical Monument.
L’Usine du Creux de l’Enfer was built on an old forge dating from the 14th century and was converted in 1988 into a Centre for Contemporary Art.
L’Usine du May was built in the late 19th century and is a perfect illustration of the architectural spirit of the time.
This superb cutlery was included in the supplementary inventory of the Historical Monuments in 2002, and has been converted in Maison de l’Aventure Industrielle since May 2009.
The cultural space allows visitors to discover the current and past architectural and industrial history of the Valley.
Don’t forget to look around, the surrounding landscape is astonishing and impressive!
You can imagine the cutlers walking down from the Quartier St-Jean along the Chemin des Rochers, a path cut into the cliff, and you will enjoy visiting the Vallée des Rouets farther down the river.
Thiers, the historic city
It seems that Thiers was burned to the ground as it was rebuilt from scratch in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The historic city is now listed as a “Protected Area”.
It stretches on the steep hillside around St-Genès Church and has retained stunning medieval buildings.
The upper town is bounded by the Rue de la Terrasse du Rempart which boasts spectacular views of the Monts Dore, Clermont Ferrant and the Limagne Plain.
The Rue de la Conchette starts nearby and follows the contour of the rampart built in 1410 during the Hundred Years War.
It was named after La Conche, a long gone fountain, and is bordered by 16th century patrician houses.
The Rue du Bourg is the oldest street of Thiers and extends the Rue Conchette.
It follows the contour of the rampart built in the 12th-13th centuries.
You will find several picturesque houses including the richly decorated Gothic Flamboyant house at No10.
The narrow and winding Rue du Pirou is bordered with 15th, 16th and 17th centuries timbered houses.
The most famous, the Maison du Pirou, was commissioned in the 15th century by the Duke of Bourbon and now hosts the tourist office.
This superb mansion boasts stunning pointed gables and a facade adorned with wooden lattice.
It overlooks the Place du Pirou, the square where justice was once made.
The house at No11 is known as Maison des Sept Péchés Capitaux – House of the Seven Deadly Sins!
It was named after the sculptured heads adorning the beam supporting the first floor and representing sloth, wrath, envy, gluttony, lust, greed and pride!
The facade is obviously listed!
The Rue du Pirou’s most surprising architectural feature is La Pedde du Coin des Hasards.
This ancient building adorned with carved woodwork spans the lane and connects the two houses on either side of the Rue du Pirou!
It replaces the old Porte Charrier, a fortified gate of the old fortress.
The facades of the houses bordering Rue de la Coutellerie are also decorated with unusual sculptures.
The facade at No14 is adorned with wooden lattice in the shape of scallop shells and bears statuettes of men and a woman holding awkward positions!
The most enigmatic is the facade of the 15th century Maison de l’Homme des Bois at No21.
It is decorated with scary wooden sculptures including a man dressed with animal skins and leaning on a stick with a head-shaped knob.
The Musée de la Coutellerie was founded in 1983 at No23 and No58 in a former cutlery workshop and Maison des Echevins (Aldermen’s House).
This museum exhibits six centuries of knife making tradition through conventional and interactive exhibitions.
Rue Anna and Rue des Remparts are farther down and follow the outside of the old fortifications.
They are lined with old cutlery workshops built in the 19th and 20th centuries.
St-Genès Church is the major religious building in the historic city.
It is dedicated to the Christian martyr Genès of Mycene who according to legend was beheaded on a rock below St-Jean Cemetery farther down the slope.
The rock has since been known as Rocher St-Genès.
The first church was built during the evangelization of the region in the 6th century, but it seems that a religious building already existed in the 2nd century!
An important place of pilgrimage, it was replaced by the current Romanesque church in the 11th-12th centuries.
It went through many alterations and was enlarged with lateral chapels in the following centuries.
One of these chapels possesses an altar dedicated of course to St-Eloi the patron saint of cutlers!
Restoration work conducted over the last two centuries brought to light murals dating back to the early church.
Listed as a Historical Monument St-Genès boasts the largest Romanesque nave and dome in Auvergne.
St-Jean Church – Quartier St-Jean
St-Jean Church, now disused, was erected beneath St-Genès on the rocky spur where legend has it that St. Genès was beheaded.
St-Jean Church was entirely rebuilt during the 15th century to serve the parishioners of the Quartier St-Jean, the old industrial and working-class district of Thiers.
It was fortified and integrated within the ramparts built during the 16th century Wars of Religion.
All that is left of the fortifications are Le Passet, a steep path sneaking down to the river, the remains of an arched gateway and the massive fortified church bell tower.
The church overlooks St-Jean Cemetery which was opened in 1830 on the edge of the rocky spur to replace St-Genès Cemetery.
St-Symphorien Church – Quartier du Moutier
St-Symphorien Church is located on the river bank, by the original settlement.
It was built in the 6th century on the site where according to legend a believer placed three stones stained with the blood of the martyr Symphorien.
The Romanesque church was rebuilt in the 11th century and belonged to the Benedictine Abbey of Moutier which was founded in the 8th century.
The abbey was destroyed during a flood of the Durolle in 1707 and was closed at the end of the 18th century.
All that is left are the two towers connected by a wooden gallery and framing the gate of the 15th century abbey mansion.
The building faces the Orangerie du Quartier du Moutier which was once part of a mansion built in 1877 by a wealthy bourgeois.
The park now houses the Centre d’Initiation et de Sensibilisation à l’Environnement – Centre for Initiation and Environmental Awareness.
On your way down to the historic district you will walk along Place Antonin Chastel and Le Jacquemart.
This metal clock represents a 2.10 m high blacksmith hitting an anvil and a paddle wheel symbolizing the water energy necessary for his forge.
Le Jacquemart rings every hour between 9am and 9pm.
This artwork created by the artists Michel and Jean-Pierre Hartmann was unveiled on 12 April 2008 and perfectly symbolizes the industrious spirit of the city of Thiers!