Millau (Occitan: ) is a commune in the Aveyron department in the French Midi-Pyrenees region in southern France. It is 70 kilometres (43 mi) from the Aveyron prefecture headquarters in Rodez. It is located at the confluence of the Tarn and Dourbie rivers. It is surrounded by the landscapes of Gorges du Tarn, Causse du Larzac and Causse Noir. It is part of the former province of Rouergue where they also communicate through a form of Occitan language: the Rouergat dialect. Its inhabitants are called Millavois and Millavoises. The territory of the municipality is part of the Regional Natural Park of Grands Causses.
The town dates back nearly 3000 years when it was situated on the hills above the Granede, before situating on the left bank of the Tarn on the alluvial plain in the second or first century B.C. The plain gave the town its Gallic name of Condatomagus (Contado meaning confluence and magus for the market). The site of Condatomagus was identified in the 19th century by Dieudonne du Rey and was close to the major earthenware centre in the Roman Empire, La Graufesenque. This is where luxury ceramics such as red terra sigillata were made. Despite major new development in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the centre of the old Roman and medieval town on the opposite (left) bank of the Tarn remains poorly excavated, and the newly renovated Maison du Peuple, almost on the site of the old Roman forum, saw no archaeology before major mechanical excavation for recent new very deep foundations. The local museum sits almost adjacent to this site.
By the second century A.D. the trade had collapsed from competition and subsequent invasions during the fourth and fifth centuries by barbarians saw the town relocate and settle to the opposite bank, changing its name to Amiliavum, then to Milhau en Rouergat (in the Millhau language), then to the French Millhau.
By the ninth century the town has grown and is the seat of a viguerie, a mediaeval administrative court, and a centre for the production of lambskin gloves. At this time the town is surrounded by ramparts. The tenth and eleventh centuries saw the creation of the Viscount of Millau and subsequently passed to the Counts of Provence, the Counts of Barcelona and eventually, in 1112, to the father of the future King of Aragon, Beranger III following his marriage to the daughter of the Viscount of Millau. In 1187, the King of Aragon grants him the seal and communal freedom of Provence by Consular Charter. A consulate was thus created, and was responsible for administering the city to raise taxes and to apply justice. In 1271, Millau passed to the crown of the kings of France.
In 1361, during the Hundred Years War, the city came under English rule. The return to peace in the fifteenth century gave the city a boost. It is Louis XI which connects Millau to the crown in 1476 by letters patent.
In the Middle Ages the town had one of the major mediaeval bridges across the River Tarn. It had 17 spans, but after one poorly maintained span fell in the 18th century, the bridge was mostly demolished. Just one span remains, with a mill that is now an art gallery, as testament to this significant trading route from north to south across pre-Renaissance France.
In 1999, Jose Bove, a local Larzac anti-globalisation activist demolished the Millau McDonalds as it was being built, in symbolic protest of the decision by the Court of the World Trade Organization to allow the United States to overtax the import of the local cheese called Roquefort, in retaliation for the European Union refusing the import of US hormone treated meat. It was also an opportunity to protest against the spread of fast food, Americanization, and the spread of Genetically Modified Organisms/crops (GMO). The McDonalds was soon rebuilt, and Bove spent a few weeks in jail. He is now representative at the European Parliament.
In the 21st century, clear of traffic jams, the town is a tourist centre with one of the largest touring campsites in central France, benefiting from the attraction of the landscapes all around, and the architecturally acclaimed viaduct. It is also a major centre for outdoor sporting activity.
The territory of this town lies across a southern portion of the Massif Central. It covers a large area of some 16,823 hectares (41,570 acres), which makes it the 25th largest metropolitan town in France). The municipality lies at the heart of the Grands Causses, a part of the Causse Rouge (east of the plateau Levezou), and part of Larzac as well as part of the Black Causse. The city county seat is located in the lower part of the town, in a large depression at the confluence of the Tarn and Dourbie about 340 m altitude.
The territory surrounding the town of Millau is characterized by livestock production and the maintaining of natural grasslands, fields and temporary pastures. It also consists of a multitude of gorges, ravines and defiles which are the defining characteristic of this country. These predominantly agricultural rural areas like the rest of this fragile region, are protected by the Regional Natural Park of Grands Causses.
The flora in the area has more than 2000 species. There is a variety of asparagus with triple leaves, Montpellier aphyllanthe, honeysuckle from the Etruria region of Italy. During the summer, the highest land of the municipality does not retain rain water and becomes arid. Some game in the area is protected and regulated by the hunting missions which gather quails, Hobby falcon, hawks, lizards, deer, wild boars, deer and mountain sheep.
The expansion of the bed of the river Tarn in the city and the creation of a raw discharge linked to its expansion has slowed and lowered the level of the river that now sees the proliferation of aquatic buttercup which is reveling in the stagnant water. This has also led to a decline in wild populations of brown trout in this sector. Also waterproofing concrete and paving large areas has increased significantly water from rain discharged directly to the river inducing a phenomena called "flush" that is quite destructive to aquatic fauna and the banks.
The city is the seat of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of South Aveyron Millau. The municipality operates the airfield of Millau-Larzac. Having been recognized for over a century as the "capital of leather and glove" Millau is renowned for its activity tannery (leather gloves). The town is best known for its sheepskin gloves, for which it led the French fashion industry for two centuries. It gained the title of "City and Art Professions" in 2000.
The glove museum
The Jardin botanique des Causses, a botanical garden
The Place du Marechal Foch, a square with 12th century arcades, one of which carries the inscription Gara que faras or Watch what you are doing
Eglise Notre-Dame-de-lEspinasse. This church allegedly once possessed a part of the Crown of Thorns, making it an important pilgrimage centre in the Middle Ages. The church was destroyed in 1582 but rebuilt in the 17th century. The frescoes from 1939 are by Jean Bernard, the stained-glass windows from 1984 by Claude Baillon.
The Passage du Pozous is a 13th-century fortified gateway
The Belfry, a 12th-century square tower topped by an octagonal 17th-century tower on the place Emma Calve
Millau is the main centre in France for paragliding
Micropolis; the city of insects, is at nearby Saint-Leons
The medieval walled Knights Templar town of La Couvertoirade is nearby
The nearby underground caves for Roquefort cheese production
Nouvelle cuisine (French, "new cuisine") is an approach to cooking and food presentation in French cuisine. In contrast to cuisine classique, an older form of haute cuisine, nouvelle cuisine is characterized by lighter, more delicate dishes and an increased emphasis on presentation. It was popularized in the 1960s by the food critics Henri Gault, who invented the phrase, and his colleagues Andre Gayot and Christian Millau in a new restaurant guide, the Gault-Millau, or Le Nouveau Guide.