Moulin Richard de Bas Ambert 18Moulin Richard de Bas Ambert 18
©Richard de Bas mill in Ambert |© Denis Pourcher

Ambert and its Moulin Richard de Bas

Discover the town of Ambert in Auvergne, the birthplace of paper in France.

Nestled in the heart of the Livradois-Forez Regional Nature Park, the town of Ambert embodies a little-known chapter in the history of the French paper industry. Renowned for its rich and diverse heritage, Ambert stands out not only for its unique architecture, but also for its leading role in the development of the paper industry since the Middle Ages.

Let yourself be seduced by Moulin Richard de Bas, the guardian of this century-old tradition. It’s more than just a mill; it’s an emblem of local know-how, a witness to the evolution and persistence of an ancient art. It’s time to embark on a journey through time and discover how Ambert has influenced the history of paper in France.

Explore our historic heritage d'Ambert

You may not know it, but Ambert is a medieval town that has made a significant contribution to the history of papermaking in France.
As early as the Middle Ages, Ambert established itself as an important center of paper manufacture, influencing the production methods that defined this era.
Strolling through the medieval quarter, with its narrow streets and ancient buildings, you can immerse yourself in this flourishing period when paper mills lined the Durolle River, using its energy to transform rags into precious sheets.
Over the centuries, thepaper industry has left an indelible mark on the town, shaping its identity and economy. Today, Ambert celebrates this heritage with museums and cultural centers such as the Moulin Richard de Bas and the Moulin de Nouara.

Discover the Richerd de Bas paper mill, France's oldest mill

Located in the Dore Valley, the construction of Moulin Richard de Bas dates back to the XIVᵉ century, when paper mills were beginning to develop in France. Its name comes from the Richard family of papermakers who, in the XVᵉ century, played a crucial role in the region’s paper production.
Can you imagine that in the XVIIᵉ century, the valley was home to nearly 400 mills! This concentration of mills not only reinforced Ambert’s importance in the paper industry, but also contributed to the economy and culture of the entire region.

Admire the unique architecture du Moulin Richard de Bas

It can’t be said often enough that the ” Moulin Richard de Bas” paper mill is a jewel in the history of the paper industry. Today, it is the last remaining mill in France. The mill’s architecture is simple and typical of the region’s rural buildings. Its large wooden wheel, which powers the entire papermaking process, is an engineering marvel of yesteryear. Despite the arrival of modern paper-making machinery towards the end of the XVIIIᵉ century, the Moulin de Richard de Bas has managed to preserve its original mechanism. Today, the mill houses a museum where you can discover how paper was made the old-fashioned way, giving you a taste of this ancestral art.

Le Moulin Richard de Bas in Ambert : timeless expertise

Today, at Moulin Richard de Bas, paper is made the old-fashioned way. Instead of wood, old cloth rags are recovered and transformed into paper. Water from the stream turns the mill’s large wheel some twenty-five times a minute. After thirty-six hours of grinding, the rags become a pulp which is then filtered and sieved to form sheets of paper.

While everything is getting faster and faster, at Moulin Richard de Bas, we take the time to make paper slowly. This is how we keep the know-how and tradition alive.

Today, the mill attracts 40,000 visitors every year from all over France to discover these ancient techniques.

With the decline of the traditional paper industry, the Richard de Bas Mill owes its survival and revival to Marius Péraudeau, a visionary man who bought it in 1941 and brought it back from oblivion. Péraudeau, already well established in the paper industry, decided to revive traditional papermaking in 1942. In 1943, the paper mill opened its doors to the public, transforming this production space into a living museum. That same year, Marius Péraudeau founded Editions Elzivir, laying the foundations for the “Que sais-je” publishing house, and continued to innovate and improve the mill, including restoring its emblematic wheel. Since then, no fewer than three million visitors have passed through the mill’s doors to discover the history and techniques of papermaking – and you could be next.

Collaborations over the years

Over the decades, Moulin Richard de Bas has never ceased to work with the cultural world. The most famous collaboration is undoubtedly with the artist Salvador Dali for the book“L’Apocalypse de Joseph Foret“, produced in a single copy. All but one of the leaves in this book are parchment… This single leaf was made by Salvador Dali and Marius Péraudeau in Paris.
Leaves from Moulin Richard de Bas were also used for the limited edition lithographic reproductions of Picasso. A “This is a reproduction” watermark was even included, as the quality of the paper was so reminiscent of an original.

Activities not to be missed in Ambert

Store

Before you leave, why not stop off at the mill’s boutique. It offers a variety of products made from paper produced on site. Beautiful notebooks, single sheets, writing paper and printed texts are available… enough to make you want to pick up your pen again!

Visit the House of Fourme d'Ambert

Located right in the center of Amber, discover the history of Fourme d’Ambert cheese, through a 45-minuteguided tour, or a self-guided tour, as well as its production. After a tasting break in the cellar, take a tour of the Jasseries using an incredible scale model.

Tourist trains AGRIVAP

A day at Ambert and the Moulin Richard de Bas is an unforgettable experience that combines discovery, learning and creativity, so why stop there? Board the AGRIVAP tourist trains that run between Ambert and La Chaise-Dieu, and continue the adventure!

Did you know?

Why not take advantage of your visit in the footsteps of the paper makers to discover Ambert’s round town hall. This monument, unique in Europe, has a history as fascinating as its unusual shape. Launched in 1816, this circular structure was originally intended as a grain market, freeing the Saint-Jean church from this function. However, it wasn’t until 1827 that it took on its current role as town hall, after much debate and change of plans. Its architecture, inspired by the halle aux blés in Paris, remains a mystery as to its original designer.

After surviving a lack of funds and multiple phases of construction, the round Town Hall has become an Ambert landmark. Today, it houses the town’s administrative services and a room for town council meetings. In the center, there’s a special wedding hall, and on the first floor, a circular exhibition. Classified as a historic monument in 1975, La Mairie ronde was even immortalized in Jules Romains’ 1913 novel “Les Copains”. This architectural gem is open to visitors, so don’t hesitate to step inside!

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