Randonnee Des 7 ChapellesRandonnee Des 7 Chapelles
©Randonnee Des 7 Chapelles|Yann ALLEGRE

7 chapels walk

Val d’Isère invites you to discover its cultural heritage with your family. Whether you’re looking for a three-hour walk or a short stroll, the 7 chapels circuit can be adapted to your needs: from the heart of the village, you choose your itinerary and discover Val d’Isère through the history of its chapels.

7 chapels tour A blend of history and discovery

Known as “La Val de Tignes” until the end of the 19th century, Val d’Isère would once have offered visitors a territory dotted with religious signs: crosses at intersections and on summits, oratories lining the paths, chapels in the various hamlets. With a little vigilance, you’ll still come across one of these signs on door lintels, or sometimes in a vegetable garden. Yet many of them have disappeared. Over time, ten chapels have disappeared from the Avalon landscape.

Explaining the disappearance of these ten chapels is no easy task. While the mountain’s wrath can be evoked by an avalanche, or the sudden flooding of the Isère, which inundates the village, for most of them (often privately owned), the lack of income and therefore maintenance, coupled with the disaffection of these outlying inhabited places, are responsible for their disappearance.

Yesterday, the community, in times of adversity (avalanche, crop failure, storms, epidemics, passing armies, suffering of all kinds) had only one resource: to implore divine intervention. His living space was sacralized and dotted with religious signs, and numerous Holy Intercessors intervened as intermediaries between God and man. With the exception of the Virgin Mary, each of them was assigned a specific mission: Saint Roch and Saint Sébastien to guard against or cure us of the plague; Saint Guérin to protect cattle and herds; Saint André to protect us from landslides and landslides, and so on.

The foundation of most of our chapels, still existing or disappeared, seems to predate the first pastoral tours of the early 17th century (1633), which mention them. These pastoral tours corresponded to the implementation of the Counter-Reformation, which followed on from the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Despite the disappearance of some of these chapels, today’s “Tour du village” trail takes you close to those that remain. Through their discovery, we’ll try to rediscover the tenuous thread that links us to the history of this ancient community, while offering keys to a better understanding of our present-day landscape.

The 7 chapels

Select the chapel of your choice to find out more

Chapel Saint-Jean-des-Prés

The larch-wood mission cross, erected in 1847, will help you spot the Saint Jean chapel. In the past, the back of the chapel featured a masonry spur (a protective structure against the avalanches that could come down from Solaise via Combe Martin). An avalanche hitting the spur would split, slow down and lose its destructive force. This chapel, built some 300 m south of the church, was intended to protect the village and its inhabitants from avalanches.

In 1790, four masses were celebrated per year, at a cost of 12 sols each. They were financed by Amédée Thovex, an emigrant avalanche merchant from Parma. On St. Innocent’s day (July 21), the second patron saint of the church in Val, a procession took place from the church with the reliquary shrine. With the shrine perched on the shoulders of confreres, banners, white-veiled sisters, parish priests and clerics, followed by the faithful, formed the long procession that took the road to Laisinant. As soon as it left the village, the procession turned towards the Rogoney to return to the chapel of Saint Jean, where a blessing took place, before returning to the village: it was a day of celebration!

Who was Saint John?

An emblematic figure of the New Testament, present in numerous scenes, Saint John, Christ’s beloved disciple, is always depicted in the iconography of the Western Church with youthful features.

Chapel Notre-Dame-des-Neiges du Joseray

The Notre-Dame-des-Neiges du Joseray chapel overlooks the Manchet valley. Mentioned as early as 1633, first as Saint Michel, then in 1790 as Notre Dame de la Compassion, it is now known as Notre-Dame-des-Neiges. In our mountains, whenever the Virgin or Our Lady is described as “of the snows”, her mission is to protect from the snow or ward off avalanches. Here, elevated on her rocky tower, Notre Dame watches over the houses at her feet!

On August 5, the feast of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, a mass was held in the chapel, preceded by a procession. In May, the Joseray procession brought Rogations to a close: Rogations are intended to draw divine attention to fields and crops, to protect them from the vagaries of weather and insects. The fifth Sunday after Easter was the Rogation Sunday for the “Grand Tour”: Monday at Le Fornet, Tuesday at La Daille. On Wednesday, the third and last of the 3 Rogation days, the procession left the church while the clerk rang the bells until the procession reached Le Joseray. At each cross or crossroads, the procession stopped and the parish priest blessed the fields. In the now-empty niche above the entrance door stood a statue of Saint Michael, which has now been stolen.

The original title of this chapel was Saint Michael the Archangel. Chapels or churches dedicated to St. Michael always have the same characteristics: they can be seen from afar, as they are erected on a rocky outcrop or mound, dominating the landscape and reminding humble creatures that at the hour of death, their deeds will be judged! According to Arnold Von Gennep, Saint Michael was invoked in Savoy by shepherds and as a protector of travelers. In many places, on Saint Michel’s day, the herds left the mountain pastures: this was the date of the “démontagnée”. From the early Middle Ages, Saint Michael’s Day was also an important legal date for payments and contract renewals. “In many communes, services were paid to the parish priest on Saint Michael’s Day”. This chapel is the largest of Val d’Isère’s rural chapels, featuring a long nave with a barrel vault ending in an undecorated flat-bottomed apse.

Chapel Saint-Germain de La Daille

Note the bell tower and the development of the gutter walls, which support a roof overhang. An improvised shelter, it protects passers-by from the wind and rain. In the niche above the entrance door: a Saint Germain! Built in 1939 on land donated in 1936 by Clotilde Boch (née André), the chapel was blessed by the bishop on July 31, the feast of the patron saint.

Who is Saint-Germain?

Legend has it that he destroyed wild beasts and stopped the avalanches that ravaged the Séez region. According to Arnold Van Gennep, “he is regarded in our countries as the patron saint of travelers”. Such a patron saint at La Daille had every reason to be. Yesterday, before entering the dreaded gorges du glaçon (those of La Daille), travelers were expected to make a final devotion to Saint-Germain by placing themselves under his protection.

Chapel Saint-Antoine du Crêt

The first Saint-Antoine chapel, reported as early as 1633, stood at the foot of the rock, near the road. In 1633, the bishop asked that it be provided with “sacred stones, crosses and candlesticks” and that it be maintained, but his instructions were not really followed over time: in 1829, the bishop forbade access to the chapel! Shortly afterwards, an avalanche came down from Bellevarde and swept away the chapel! In 1854, a new chapel was rebuilt. Three brothers from the neighboring farm: Dominique, Jean-Joseph and Joseph-Maurice Moris (the latter 2 were parish priests at the time) donated the land and financed the building. Joseph-Maurice brought from Peisey, where he was parish priest, 2 master masons and a Val Sésian: Jean-Baptiste Scarafiotti. On a beam, a date 1640 and the initials MG: for Maurice Guiller, in memory of the old building.

Please note that the chapel is located on private property.

Who is Saint Anthony?

More often called “Saint Anthony Abbot” from the Aramaic “abbas” meaning “Father”, because he was considered the “father” of monks. St. Anthony was a healing saint who was invoked against “mal des Ardents”, plague, scabies and venereal diseases, but also to cure animals: pigs and horses! He is also the patron saint of pork butchers. In Val, on Saint-Antoine’s day, January 17, horses and salt were blessed.

Chapel Saint-Roch On the church square

The Saint-Roch chapel stands on the church square. The niches house Saint-Roch, Joan of Arc and the Curé d’Ars (the former statues have been stolen).

The chapel was mentioned in the 1633 pastoral tour. In 1790, a certain Boch, a lawyer from Turin, made a donation for the celebration of 51 masses a year, one every Friday. The chapel is still used today as a chapelle ardente. For a very long time, the millstream that brought water to the adjacent mill passed right in front of the chapel! You can still see a millstone standing on its side.

Who was Saint-Roch?

Saint-Roch is celebrated on August 16. He was a hermit who spent his time on pilgrimage. Often associated with Saint Sébastien, Saint-Roch is an anti-weight-loss saint. His cult began to spread in Savoy in the mid-15th century. It spread rapidly throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, before disappearing almost completely in the 18th century.

The plague was a terrible disease. Its pandemics wreaked havoc on populations. Yersin’s bacillus, the vector of the disease, was not identified until the 19th century. Rats carried the bacillus, and fleas passed from rats to humans, contaminating them. In our mountain communities, where peddlers, muleteers, merchants and smugglers are legion, it’s hardly surprising that the disease regularly affected the community. A flea carrying the bacillus that jumped into a coat lapel and the disease was there.

Chapel Saint-Barthélemy du Laisinant

Built before 1633, during a pastoral tour, the bishop ordered the inhabitants to take care of the building by closing it up to prevent animals from roaming around inside! With the income from a meadow behind the chapel, Anne-Marie Guiller founded a mass on the feast day of the patron saint. In the chapel was a painting of the Virgin and Child, which after restoration was placed on the epistle wall in the church choir. Saint Bartholomew with his arched knife can be seen in the background, to the right of the breast-feeding Virgin.

Who was Saint-Barthélemy?

Saint-Barthélemy, patron saint of butchers, tanners and bookbinders, but also venerated by breeders, is celebrated on August 24. In iconography, Barthélemy wears the skin of his own skin, because he was flayed alive. Sometimes, he holds in his hand the large knife used for this torture. According to Arnold Van Gennep, “Saint Bartholomew is an ancient saint in all the dioceses of Savoy”.

Chapel Sainte-Marie-Madeleine du Fornet

In Le Fornet, the chapels are on the move… Blame it on the avalanches. There have been four chapels in all, all dedicated to Sainte-Marie-Madeleine. The first was built between 1600 and 1630 near the larch forest to protect the village from avalanches. The present chapel was built in 1890. At the expense of Joachim Bonnevie. Above the entrance door, in the niche, you can see the statuette of the Patron Saint. Like many religious objects, the original was stolen in the 1980s. Up until the 1990s, on Saint Mary Magdalene’s Day, the parish priest would come to bless the houses, ending with a mass in the chapel attended by Fornellans.

Who was Mary Magdalene?

According to the New Testament, she was delivered from seven demons by Jesus. She became one of his disciples, perhaps the most important. She was the first witness to Jesus’ Resurrection, which gives her considerable importance. She is also the most prominent woman in the New Testament. Mary Magdalene is weeping, she hasn’t understood the angels’ words, it’s so unimaginable. Then Christ appears and speaks to her. He tells her that he is going back to God, and that she must tell the other disciples. Feast day: July 22.

Why Mary Magdalene at Le Fornet?

This is precisely the spot where the water runs off the bottom of the gorge. It would have been difficult to reach the Isère in case of fire. Mary Magdalene’s tears were counted on to extinguish the fire.

Others Places of worship in Val d'Isère

Church Saint-Bernard-de-Menthon

Listed as a Monument Historique, the church of Saint-Bernard de Menthon bears witness to several centuries of construction.

It was built on the site of a large Romanesque chapel, which is difficult to date due to a lack of historical sources. A closer look at the buildings reveals that this first edifice dates from around the 11th century. Its last traces are the choir arch and the small windows on the side walls, visible from the outside.

Before the church itself was built, Val d’Isère belonged to the parish of Tignes, forcing Avalins to brave the dangerous Daille gorges to attend services. In 1531, the inhabitants of Val d’Isère were granted the privilege of building their own church, complete with baptismal font, bell tower and cemetery.

It is not known exactly when the conversion work began, but it was probably completed by 1664, when the adjacent belfry tower was built. During these works, the former chapel was enlarged to take the shape of the present church. The choir was enlarged and raised by a staircase, abandoning its “cul de four” structure for a quadrangular shape. The old windows were blocked up and the large half-moon openings were hollowed out. Although built in the 16th and 17th centuries, the exterior of the church is very sober and mineral, in keeping with the vernacular architecture of the Tarine valley.

The interior was extensively decorated in the Baroque style in the 17th century. In the context of the Counter-Reformation and the decrees of the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church supported the spread of Baroque art. This propaganda style gave an emotional dimension to religious art, which became a veritable communication tool. It is characterized by decorative profusion, strong emotional tension and the simultaneous use of the primary colors red, yellow and blue.

Chapel Saint Lucia

The Sainte-Lucie chapel and adjoining chalet are the last remaining evidence of the Branges’ existence. This hamlet faces Fornet d’Aval, on the other side of the Isère, of which only a few ruins remain. Situated in critical areas, these two hamlets have suffered considerably from avalanches. This damage bears witness to the gradual, empirical mastery of natural hazards that dozens of generations of Avalins have built up over the centuries.

The chapel at Les Branges is dedicated to Lucia, the virgin saint and martyr. From the Latin “lux” meaning “light”, her first name evokes the radiance of virginity. Denounced by her husband as a Christian, she was forcibly taken to a brothel, where legend has it she gouged out her own eyes in protest and had them brought to her husband. Condemned to be raped, divine intervention is said to have enveloped her in a luminous halo, protecting her from her assailants.

Discover the village of Val d'Isère in summer

Val d’Isère is committed to retaining its authentic, pioneering spirit and giving you the true mountain experience.

The Col de l'Iseran is open   The Col de l'Iseran is open  
☀️Summer season: June 29th to September 1st, 2024 ❄️ Winter season: November 30th, 2024 to May 4th, 2025
Publicité PlayStation
Close