Renaissance Bird King Festival
Fêtes Renaissance du Roi de l'Oiseau
Le Puy-en-Velay (Auvergne region)
Le Puy-en-Velay and its inhabitants take us on a dizzying journey through time, back to the Renaissance Era with historical market, living history displays, military camps, archery contest, historical parades, battle reenactments, and shows featuring scores of artists and historical characters celebrating all night long until dawn to honour the King of the Birds and relive the 16th Century in all its glory…
Le Puy-en-Velay, located near the Loire river, in the Haute-Loire department, in south-central France, is a historical town with ancient and well preserved architectures, including the outstanding Notre-Dame Cathedral, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Le Puy-en-Velay is famous also for the local lentils, the lace-making tradition, and for being internationally recognised as the departure point of the St. James Way pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Besides its rich cultural heritage, Le Puy-en-Velay hosts several festivals throughout the year, and offers a wealth of leisure, educational and nature-themed activities designed for the whole family in a delicate and friendly environment.
The “shooting at the bird” contest used to be a typical French tradition, quite widespread and popular throughout the kingdom and in Central Europe as well, with a long history going back to at least the 13th century. Officially introduced in France in the 14th century by King Charles V, after the closure of casinos or gambling houses he had ordered to divert the youth from lust and moral deterioration. The contest involved shooting down, by a musket or with an arrow, the popinjay, or “Papagaï” (the name for parrot in old French), a representation of a bird, made of cloth and placed on top of a pole, sometimes on a church steeple or the uppermost arm to a windmill. The Bird King archery contest ("Roi de l’Oiseau" means the "King of the Bird") was organised for the first time in Le Puy-en-Velay in 1524. In those times, King Francis I and his court were thriving, the Renaissance was at its peak and the town got ready to host the crowds who came to attend the crowning of the new King of Birds, the finest of all archers. The contest took place each year on Whitsun Monday. The winner was proclaimed King of the Bird for one year, during which he was entitled to carry a sword and to take part in processions on an equal footing with the town consuls. He was given also the keys to the town, the rank of commander of a group of musketeers, and for one year was exonerated from taxes.
The festivities in Le Puy-en-Velay have acquired their former splendour since 1986, and every year in September the charming historical downtown and the streets winding up to the cathedral provide a beautiful setting to a breathtaking journey into the past, to relive the Renaissance period in the celebration of the local bird-shooting and archery tradition, involving more than 6000 people in faithful historical costumes. Archers, craftsmen, merchants, princes and mercenaries, pilgrims and a variety of other historical characters, all in costumes of the period, give life to the streets and plunge the town back into the heart and atmosphere of the 16th century. The rich programme is strongly focused on authenticity and includes street theatre, living history displays of the daily in the city in the past, military camps, crafts workshops, period kitchen, parades in historical costumes, combat and battle reenactments. The street entertainment with jugglers, jesters, storytellers, musicians, troubadours and many other artists from all over France and Europe provides a colourful and inviting frame to the thrilling archery contest which represents the main event of the whole celebration.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
Association "Roi de l'Oiseau"
Address: 29 rue Raphaël, 43000 Le Puy-en-Velay, France
Tel.: +33 (0)4 71093841 | Fax: +33 (0)4 71021895
Le Puy-en-Velay City Coincil
Address: Hôtel de Ville - 1, Place du Martouret - BP 20317 - 43011 Le Puy-en-Velay, France
Tel.: +33 (0)4 71040740 | Fax: +33 (0)4 71026208
Tourist Office / Office de Tourisme de Le Puy-en-Velay
Address: 2 Place du Clauzel, 43000 Le Puy-en-Velay, France
Tel.: +33 (0)4 71093841 | Fax: +33 (0)4 71052262
Image: Association “Roi de l’Oiseau”
Text sources: Association “Roi de l’Oiseau”, Auvergne Tourism, Wikipedia, Le Puy-en-Velay city council
Le Puy-en-Velay on Google Maps:
Video reportages and promos of the event: