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County of Velay
Comtat del Velai (in Occitan)
Comté du Velay (in French)
In red, the modern territory of Haute-Loire (most of it was former Velay) within France
|Common languages||Occitan, French|
|Religion||Roman Catholicism, Calvinism|
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
|Today part of||France|
The country is well delimited by natural obstacles: Allier river in the south, Mount Boutières and Mézenc on the east, Mount Devès on the west. Devès has Celtic toponyms clearly suggesting an antic border (Fix from finis; la Durande from Gaulish Equiranda meaning frontier).
No explanation concerning the toponym, except 19th century's naïve scholastic ones that connected the name to PIE root wel (land of "well ... people") or even to the mythological Hel ("land or mountains of the hell" referring to the volcanic geology).
The first mention of a county of Velay was in 1142.
In 1162, Velay becomes an independent county, with its bishop as count reporting directly to the King.
Velay was divided into eighteen baronies.
The country is part of Languedoc from the mid 14th century but with a particular status: Velay kept its own States General until 1789. During the same period, it was a crossroads of pilgrimage trails.
In the beginning of the 16th century Velay was wealthy, but the religious wars ruined the country. Le Puy was ardently catholic but the extreme south east of Velay was deeply Protestant. It is still nowadays the most Protestant area of France.
Velay ceased to exist after the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. The department of Haute-Loire was created from the former county of Velay, on top of it a portion of Auvergne, Gévaudan and Vivarais are added.
The name is kept for geographical terms (Mounts of the Velay) or new French geographical administrative entity (Communautés de communes du Velay).