Val d’Isère invites you to discover its cultural heritage with your family. As a three-hour walk or several shorter walks, you can adapt the circuit of the 7 chapels to suit your requirements: from the heart of the village, it’s down to you to choose your route and discover Val d’Isère through the history of its chapels.
THE 7 CHAPELS CIRCUIT
“THE VILLAGE TOUR”
Called “La Val de Tignes” until the end of the 19th century, Val d’Isère once offered visitors a region marked out by religious signs: crosses at intersections and on summits, oratories alongside roads, chapels in the various hamlets. Walking there today, if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll still come upon one of these marks on door lintels, or occasionally in a vegetable garden. Yet many have disappeared. In this way, over time, ten chapels have disappeared from the Val d’Isère landscape.
Explaining the disappearance of these ten chapels isn’t easy. While the mountain’s anger and its avalanches could be blamed, or the sudden rise of the River Isère’s level, flooding the village, for most of them (often being private property), a lack of funds and hence maintenance, accompanied by the falling out of favour of these outlying settlements, are responsible for their disappearance.
A region marked by religious signs
Not so long ago, the community, in all its adversity (avalanches, poor harvests, storms, epidemics, armies passing through, suffering of all kinds) had just one resource: to implore divine intervention. Living spaces were sanctified and filled with religious signs, many Intercessor Saints would intervene: intermediaries between God and Man. Apart from The Virgin, each of them was assigned a special mission: for Saint Roch and Saint Sébastien, it was to keep us safe or heal us from the plague; Saint Guérin’s role was to protect livestock and herds; Saint André served to protect us from landslides and landslip, etc.
The foundation of most of our chapels, whether still existing or now disappeared, seems to predate the first pastoral tours (visits by the bishop to the parish) of the early 17th century (1633) that mention them. These pastoral tours correspond to the establishment of the Counter Reformation which arose from the Council of Trent (1545-1563) within our region. Despite the disappearance of some of these chapels, today, by taking the path that leads you on the “Village Tour”, you can see the ones that remain. Through their discovery, we will try to find the tenuous thread that connects us to the history of this ancient community while offering keys to better understand our current landscape.