There is an agreeable modernity about Brive-la-Gaillarde, a town of 50,000 inhabitants, that belies its antiquity. More recently, it was the first city of Occupied France to liberate itself by its own means, on 15 August 1944. For this, the city received the “Croix de Guerre 1939-1945” military decoration.
Although the area was settled as early as the 1st century, it was not for another 400 years until the town developed around a church dedicated to Saint-Martin-l'Espagnol. Nothing remains – other than boulevards – to indicate the location of the 12th-century fortified walls or those added during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).
The appendage 'Gaillarde' is probably intended to signify bravery, and was added to the name, Brive, in 1919, following the First World War. During the Second World War, Brive-la-Guillarde, was a stronghold of the Resistance Movement, and focal point of several clandestine information networks, including the so-called Secret Army. None of this is evident as you stroll the streets of the town, which seems in all respects to be nothing more than a respectable hub of society, associated with an airport link to the UK.
The medieval centre of Brive-la-Gaillarde is largely commercial with shops and cafés, but is also the location of the city hall, the main police station, and the Labenche museum. One notable landmark, worth visiting, outside the inner city is the Pont Cardinal, a bridge that was formerly a crossing point for travellers between Paris and Toulouse.
© Dan Courtice