Discovering Savonyard Culture

Otto I. Eovaldi

If you want to go skiing, Les Menuires is a perfect place for both beginners or experienced afficinados. Its location in the beautiful Three Valleys makes it an accessible and enjoyable venue. From adult oriented activities to family fun, you can find it all here. From fun on the slopes to après ski, Les Menuires ensures your stay is an enjoyable one.

Besides skiing, Les Menuires also provides its visitors with the opportunity to discover the historical roots of the district. The culture of the people is evident if you have the time and the inclination to go exploring. Beyond the snow covered slopes is a very distinct Savonyard heritage. You can explore this in a number of ways, starting with visiting the area’s local cultural centres.

Notre Dame de la Vie Sanctuary

This charming church dates from the 1500s, with renovations between 1633 and 1680 by Nicolas Deschamps. It is dedicated to the life of Holy Mother Mary whose “miraculous statue” it was built to house. Not far from Saint-Martin de Belleville and the skiing of Les Menuires it is still the site of numerous holy pilgrimages. Today, it is a perfect place to attend concerts or to simply admire the Baroque architecture and art in the Savonyard style.

The church is designed around a simple Greek cross from which four chapels radiate. Inside, take the time to admire the frescoes, depicting the ascension of Mary, on the central dome by Nicolas Oudéard, whose work exemplifies this period in the Tarentaise Valley. The major altarpiece in this sanctuary was executed in 1686 by Jean-Marino Molino and features a gilded portrayal of the life of Mary. There is also an altarpiece dedicated to the Apostles completed in 1635. It is believed to be one of the oldest examples of this type of work in the region.

You can reach the Sanctuary of Notre Dame de la Vie easily by snow shoeing or skiing. Les Menuires information centres or accommodations can provide facts on this religious edifice as well as routes to take.

Saint-Martin de Belleville Village (Parish) Church

Also worth a visit is the Parish church located in Saint-Martin de Belleville. As with Notre Dame de la Vie, this village church is done in the Savonyard Baroque style. Of particular interest is the main altarpiece whose decorative features include vine leaves and grape clusters on the columns.

Belleville Museum

Belleville Museum is found in the heart of Saint-Martin de Belleville housed in a former farm building. It focuses on the agricultural history of the area covering a period of 150 years, and shows the progression from a rural community up until the 1960s and its change through tourism. You can wander through the museum unaccompanied and even if you do not speak French you can use a headphone attached to an audio guide explaining the various displays and exhibits of the museum.

If you want to go skiing, Les Menuires is obviously an excellent choice, however, bear in mind that this region offers much more than that. If you take the time to explore the culture of the area, you will be able to really appreciate its rich and diverse Savonyard heritage.

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