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Grand Établissement Thermal

Historic site and monument, Historic patrimony, (Thermal) baths, UNESCO World Heritage, 20th C, Classified, Romano-Byzantine in Vichy
  • This former 1st-class spa, built in 1900, is striking in its neo-Moorish style. Take a few steps into the vast entrance hall with its fountain and two murals illustrating the two uses of mineral water.

  • The town's landmark building, inaugurated on May 31, 1903, boasts imposing dimensions, measuring 170 metres long and 165 metres wide, in a Romanesque-Byzantine style. Its facade, adorned with "flamed sandstone with aquatic decor" ceramics, overlooks the park of springs where water-drinkers stroll. Commissioned by Compagnie Fermière, this 1st-class establishment was built in three years by architects Charles LeCoeur, precursor of Art Nouveau, and Lucien Woog, assisted by Gustave Simon,...
    The town's landmark building, inaugurated on May 31, 1903, boasts imposing dimensions, measuring 170 metres long and 165 metres wide, in a Romanesque-Byzantine style. Its facade, adorned with "flamed sandstone with aquatic decor" ceramics, overlooks the park of springs where water-drinkers stroll. Commissioned by Compagnie Fermière, this 1st-class establishment was built in three years by architects Charles LeCoeur, precursor of Art Nouveau, and Lucien Woog, assisted by Gustave Simon, architect for Compagnie Fermière. Renowned artists were hired to decorate the building, combining Romanesque-Byzantine art with Art Nouveau references. Symbolist painter Alphonse Osbert was responsible for the hall's predominantly blue murals on the theme of springs and baths; Paul Roussel for the sculptures; ceramist Alexandre Bigot for the blue stoneware of the dome's clerestories, decorative panels and ridge tiles; and Émile Robert for the ironwork. The Boussange spring, encircled in turquoise-blue ceramics, stands at the center of the immense hall.

    Visible from afar, the most surprising feature is undoubtedly the oriental dome, with its orange and yellow glazed tiles created by Émile Muller, which tops the central pavilion. It invites us to wander to faraway lands, evoking the Mamluk tombs of Cairo or the Palais des Beaux Arts et des Arts Libéraux at the 1889 Exhibition. The Thermes des Dômes dominate Vichy, embellished by two minarets with turquoise-blue ceramic bulbs that housed the water reservoirs. In the corridors of this "palace of the Thousand and One Nights", classified as a historic monument since 1989, the footsteps of celebrities have trodden the mosaic symbolizing the springs.

    A UNESCO heritage site
    Initiated at the Logis du Roi, the first spa establishment built at the emergence of the Chomel and Grande-Grille springs in the 17th century, the growth of the spa destination has been a succession of embellishments and extensions to the spa infrastructure.
    In a way, the construction of the large, first-class spa in 1903 marked the acme of Vichy thermalism, which culminated in the 1930s. At the time of its construction, it was not only the most luxurious establishment in the resort, but also the most architecturally audacious.
    The plan by architect Charles Lecœur - who at the same time was overseeing the expansion of the Casino-théâtre - proposed a symmetrical layout of buildings measuring 165 x 170 metres, with several elements (the dome to the south and the water tanks to the north) evoking Moorish architecture. With no fewer than 136 treatment cabins, it is also at the cutting edge of medical and hygienic knowledge at the beginning of the 20th century.
    With its facade pierced by 3 semicircular bays (like the opera house) and its vast hall topped by a dome covered in flamed sandstone, there is a clear intention to monumentalize the development of the Queen of the spa towns. Whether in stone or in words, at the casino or the spa, Vichy was, at the time, the "ville d'eaux" of superlatives.
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