History and Culture
La Chapelle d'Abondance, Pays d’Art et d’Histoire
Since 2003, the Abondance Valley has been registered under the title Pays d’Art et d’Histoire, which is awarded by the Minister of Culture to municipalities that take an active role in protecting and promoting their heritage.
Exhibitions, guided visits, themed footpaths, workshops for children and much more to discover the wealth of our history and daily life! From mountain pastures, the Abbey, chapels and oratories, from woodworking craftsmanship to winter sports, all these parts of local life from yesteryear and today are presented.
In 2019 the Pays d’Art et d’Histoire was extended across the entire Pays d’Evian Vallée d’Abondance region.
A Pious Past
Historically the Abondance valley territory lies between the Portes du Soleil and Pas de Morgins glacial lock according to the valley’s donation act to the Augustinian canons in 1108. The church that oversees this large parish is in Frasses, centralised between its borders. At the beginning of the 13th century debates between Aymon de Grandson, the Bishop of Geneva, and Abondance Abbey took place to choose the priest for Frasses church. The Abbey decided in favour of Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254). The St Maurice des Frasses church is downgraded to a secondary church and becomes La Chapelle des Frasses. The monastery’s church, Saint Marie, is accorded parish primary status. In the centuries that follow, the parish’s name is sometimes linked to the valley to become La Chapelle de l’Abondance. A first parish split took place when the church is reconstructed at its present location in Contamines at the beginning of the 15th century. But independence from Abbey will happen after François de Sales († 1622) arrives in the 17th century. During the revolution, the village took the name of Mont d´Or in 1792 but resumed its name La Chapelle a few years later in 1815. La Chapelle-en-Chablais also appears during the 19th century. The 27th February 1961 decree, published in the Journal Officiel on 4th March 1961, makes the municipality’s new name official: La Chapelle d’Abondance.
During the winter season 1959-1960, the town opened its first chairlift Clos Baron, which was also used as a lift to lower the milk churns down from the pastureland during the summer.
Ancient Religious Buildings
La Maison des Soeurs
La Maison des Sœurs was originally a building constructed for the Sisters of Charity Order nuns in 1842.
The Sisters of Charity, an order founded by Jeanne Antide Thouret in the Doubs, were summoned by the La Chapelle parish to come and teach young girls.
Built in 1842, the ground floor housed a pharmacy-herbalist, classrooms and a laundry room.
The sisters’ accommodation was on the 1st floor.
Long abandoned, it was restored to become the current Tourist Office reception, a games library and an exhibition space. Situated in La Chapelle d’Abondance’s village centre, the Maison des Sœurs is instantly recognisable with its arcades facing the Notre-Dame de Compassion chapel.
The two village chapels founded in the 17th century recall the visit from François de Sales, Bishop and Prince of Geneva, who stimulated the religious ardor of the inhabitants during his pastoral visits to La Chapelle, following the danger of Genovese Calvinism. Discreet decorations and especially the statues, bear witness to a time where the cultural relationship with the saints and Notre Dame was hugely important.
Notre Dame de Compassion
It is in the village centre. According to the legend this chapel would have been built on the site of another place of worship destroyed when the banks of the River Chevenne overflowed. Its original name: Notre Dame de Pitié, de St Félix, de St André and all the Saints, hadn’t been chosen by chance!
The Saint Jacques Chapel
In the La Ville du Nant hamlet there is a statue of a pope, St Félix may be in memory of Félix V, anti-pope in Basel, better known under the name of Amédée VIII, Duke of Savoy who, as he was removed from this cumbersome tiara, came to piously end his days at the Ripaille Manor House on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Saint Maurice Church
Its construction began in the 14th century and ended in the 18th century.
Francis Wey, a 19th century writer who was commissioned by Haute-Savoie to describe to France this recently attached new department, is surprised by the bell tower’s appearance: “We thus reach La Chapelle whose fantastic bell tower ends with two superimposed lanterns, separated by copper balls… “
The Abondance Valley is fortunate to have their own traditional architecture: beautiful wooden farms that you will find nowhere else. The visitor is first struck by the vast proportions of these constructions. Then your gaze is drawn to the 2 or 3 beautifully carved and decorated galleries that run along the facade. These huge farms can include 2 symmetrical dwellings. The cellars are built into the stone foundations.
The living space is at the front (at the level of the first balcony), separated from the stables by a long corridor.
The hayloft floor on the upper balcony is used for drying crops. At the rear of the farm, there’s a slope providing direct access to the hayloft.
The soapstone stove is the typical heating method found in large dwellings located in the upper part of the valley. The stones will have been cut in the Saix quarry and often, the stove will have been brought from the Bagnes valley in Valais, hence its evocative name, Bagnard.
Francis Wey, a travel journalist from 1865, when entering the Passengués hamlet in La Chapelle is impressed by “the largest and most original farms that one can imagine. They are sometimes topped with tall pyramidal chimneys made from planks, at the centre of which they make vacherins, renowned cheese from the Abondance area. Habitat and architecture are not an accident. They correspond to particular and original solutions to the problems presented by the natural environment, two essential requirements must be met: having a space large enough to shelter animals and people, and the food reserves necessary for both. In this “civilisation” hay and storage volume will depend on the number of animals wintered in the stables”.
Fauna and flora live alongside us and have a great importance in our quality of life.
The Abondance Valley, renowned for its remarkable landscapes also possesses this living heritage of flowers and wild animals.
Whether this may be part of the micro-fauna in our gardens or our Alpine lawns, whether it is wildlife that wanders in a herd or solitary, this discreet but omnipresent wildlife is our lifetime companion. From the popular ibex or chamois to the lesser-known arctic ptarmigan, from the surprising wallcreeper to fritillary butterflies, from the discreet edelweiss to the flamboyant lady’s-slipper orchid, they have all been there since the dawn of time, and continue their life’s eternal path.
Unless Man decide otherwise. No nature, no future.
Captured through photographic lenses, the images bear witness to this natural world that is inseparable from our own human microcosm.
From 20th December, opening times of the La Chapelle d’Abondance Tourist Office.
Closed 25th December and 1st January.
The Ski Museum
In an 18th century farm, discover the fascinating collection of old skis that illustrate the arrival and development of winter sports in the Abondance Valley. Dates and times: see the events programme. Flat rate €3.70.
Reservation required no later than 5 pm the day before at the La Chapelle d’Abondance Tourist Office.
Come to Our Home
A unique opportunity to cross the threshold of a traditional house in the Abondance valley in the company of a local guide who can reveal all its secrets.
Wednesdays 17th and 24th April, 2:30 – 4:00 pm.
Child 8 to 15 yrs. old €4
Child under 8 yrs. old free entry
Reservations required at La Chapelle d’Abondance Tourist Office.
Other Cultural Treasures
In addition to La Chapelle d’Abondance, the Pays d’Evian Vallée d’Abondance harbors many treasures associated to history, water, and traditions.
Take advantage of your stay to discover them.
St Laurent church
Unguided group tours, Unguided individual tours
At first, a chapel was founded in 1438 on this place, when it was depending of La Chapelle d'Abondance. Châtel became a parish in 1643. A parish church was built in 1662, and was extended in 1848 so as to be large enough for the population and the first tourists. To...
The Cachat spring
Guided group tours, Unguided individual tours
The Cachat spring – formerly known as the Saint Catherine Fountain, is the most famous of the many natural sources in Evian. Built in 1903, at the same time as the pump room opposite, the spring runs all year at a constant temperature of 11.6C.
Museum of old-style skiing
Guided group tours
An old farm built in 1783 houses this museum, providing visitors with an insight into the location’s fascinating history: farmhouse interior, from stable to kitchen including a display of everyday objects and a collection of old skis dating from 1900.
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