Tour of the Villages and Chapels
Explore the villages and chapels in La Rosière-Montvalezan
The commune of Montvalezan is located in the heart of the Haute-Tarentaise massif, in the Savoie department of France. It covers an area of 2,590 hectares with a base altitude of 850m and peak altitude of 2,900m. This south-facing commune is made up of 44 hamlets, 34 of which are currently inhabited. It has 692 year-round inhabitants and around 11,000 tourist beds in La Rosière itself. For many years, the commune’s liveliest village, especially on Sundays, was its administrative centre, Montvalezan village. The parish includes a tower, a vicarage and a church. A designated Monument Historique (Historic Monument), the tower was built in 1674. It was an annexe of the Petit-Saint-Bernard hospice, which was temporarily frequented by canons. Consecrated in 1688, when baroque art was enjoying a boom in the Haute-Tarentaise, the Saint Jean-Baptiste church is open to the public every Thursday in July and August, from 4pm to 6pm.
Wood, stone and lauze (irregular grey schist slates used for roofs) are the keystones of traditional Savoyard architecture. In every one of the commune’s hamlets, the houses have been built either on a berm or up against the slope, and are often packed tightly together around a rustic chapel. Solid, functional and very similar to one another, they are perfectly adapted to suit the mountain climate. The thick dry stone walls are topped with a robust wooden frame that supports the flagstone roof and a significant mass of snow. Originally designed for agricultural use, many of the traditional houses have now been renovated in order to accommodate the commune’s year-round, seasonal and tourist inhabitants.
The commune of Montvalezan’s 14 chapels are well-known heritage sites. These chapels were built by our ancestors in the 17th century, sometimes even earlier, as a thank you for a blessing received or simply as a place where they could express their faith or talk about their life, their sufferance and their hopes. Every one of Montvalezan’s 14 chapels is dedicated to a particular saint, usually the name of its patron, a universal saint or a miracle-worker:
- Le Champ: Notre-Dame de Fourvière
- La Rochette: Notre-Dame de la Pitié
- Le Griotteray: Saint-Joseph
- Le Solliet: Sainte-Barbe
- Le Villaret: Saint-André
- Le Crey: Notre-Dame de Liesse
- Les Moulins: Saint-Martin
- Le Mousselard: Saint-Barthélémy
- Les Laix: Saint-Roch
- Le Châtelard: Saint-Alexis and Saint-Michel
- La Combaz: Saint-Jacques
- Hauteville: Sainte-Anne
- La Rosière: Sainte Jeanne d’Arc
Jewel in the crown: Le Châtelard’s chapel
At an altitude of 1,500m in Le Châtelard village (whose etymology comes from the word castellarium, which means a concentration of houses around a castle), the Saint-Michel chapel is perched on a hill that overlooks the Haute-Tarentaise Valley.
The small chapel that existed in 1633 was rebuilt in 1869, and raised and decorated in 1914. Bombed in 1944 due to its strategic geographical position, it has since been restored. Like most churches on hills, it is principally dedicated to Saint Michael.
Its bell tower houses the commune’s oldest bell, which was cast in 1559 and moved from Montvalezan to Le Châtelard to protect it from the revolutionary troops. Having been the theatre for numerous processions, blessings, Sunday masses and weddings, the chapel continues to set the time for the village’s inhabitants thanks to its Angelus bell.
In 1993, the Chapel Association embarked on a long-term project to restore all of these buildings, in collaboration with the commune’s councillors. The work is carried out by volunteers or craftsmen, who are paid using donations and town council subsidies.