In the footsteps of d'Artagnan

The departemental capital of the Gers is Auch, only 20 or so kilometres from Trapeharde. It's a fine town whose Cathédrale Sainte-Marie has been granted UNESCO World Heritage (patrimoine mondial) status through its position on the French part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

The cathedral sits in the upper part of the town with the River Gers flowing below. Between the two is a flight of steps known as the Escalier Monumental.

Sitting half-way up these stone steps is a splendid statue of d'Artagnan, the captain of the king's musketeers in the novel Les Trois Mousquetaires by Alexandre Dumas.

There are 370 steps (marches) in total (235, not counting the double-flight near the top) and they rise some 35 metres.

The 35 metres up to the archbishop's palace and the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie
L'escalier monumental at Auch - during its restoration in 2012
The statue of d'Artagnan on l'escalier monumental at Auch
d'Artagnan surveying l'escalier monumental at Auch
The imposing statue on l'escalier monumental at Auch
The inscription on l'escalier monumental commemorates the tragic flood of 1988

The inscription near the top of the steps commemorates a tragic flood (inondation) that happened in the lower town in 1988.

These steps are so important that an expensive restoration project was begun in 2009, some of whose work can be seen in these photos taken in 2012.