1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Villefranche-de-Rouergue

VILLEFRANCHE-DE-ROUERGUE, a town of France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Aveyron, 36 m. W. of Rodez by road. Pop. (1906) town, 6297, commune, 3352. Villefranche, which has a station on the Orleans railway, lies amongst the hills on the right bank of the Aveyron at its junction with the Alzou. One of the three bridges that cross the river belongs to the 13th century, and the straight, narrow streets are full of gabled houses of the 13th and 14th centuries. One of the principal thoroughfares passes beneath the porch of Notre-Dame, the principal church of Villefranche. Notre-Dame was built from 1260 to 1581, the massive tower which surmounts its porch being of late Gothic architecture. The remarkable woodwork in the choir dates from the 15th century. A Carthusian monastery overlooking the town from the left bank of the Aveyron derives much interest from the completeness and fine preservation of its buildings, which date from the 15th century. They include a fine refectory and two cloisters, the smaller of which is a masterpiece of the late Gothic style. The manufacture of leather, animal-traps, hosiery, bell-founding, hemp-spinning, &c., are carried on. Quarries of phosphates and mines of argentiferous lead are worked near Villefranche.

Villefranche, founded about 1252, owes its name to the numerous immunities granted by its founder Alphonse, count of Toulouse (d. 1271), and in 1348 it was so flourishing that sumptuary laws were passed. Soon afterwards the town fell into the hands of Edward, the Black Prince, but was the first place in Guienne to rise against the English. New privileges were granted to the town by King Charles V., but these were taken away by Louis XI. In 1588 the inhabitants repulsed the forces of the League, and afterwards murdered a governor sent by Henry IV. The town was ravaged by plague in 1463, 1558 and 1628, and in 1643 a revolt, excited by the exactions of the intendants, was cruelly repressed.