Places of worship

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Places of worship
Places of worship

Beauty and spirit language, art is a way to understand the most profound roots of the history of La Thuile.Its recurring elements accompany art lovers from a hamlet to another to discover places of worship. A leap into the past and a journey of faith that, starting from the year 1000, has narrated the vicissitudes of the people that lived in this border area. Some nice routes, to be done on foot, by car or by shuttle (during the winter), start from the Church of Saint Nicholas in the centre of the town and bring to the chapels of the various hamlets in La Thuile. They follow two main itineraries: the first one towards the Colle San Carlo, until the hamlet of Buic; the second one towards Pont Serrand,along the street that goes towards the Little St Bernard pass. Two routes that stretch along the only ancient way to communicate with France: the “Via delle Gallie consular road”. The ancient chapels, built between the XVIIand the XIX centuries, embellish La Thuile streets by harmoniously combining themselves with the surrounding landscape. They all depend on the Saint Nicholas parish church, the upholder of many precious sacred objects.

Towards the Colle San Carlo
La Thuile (1465 m.) - Moulin (1495 m.) - Thovex (1520 m.) - Clou 1528 m.) - Buic (1530 m.)
Dedicated to Saint Nicholas, La Thuile parish church [1] is right in the centre of the town. An ancient place of worship, a silent witness of the history of the community, whose existence is testified by a document dating back to 1093. It is a parchment about the provostship of Saint Gilles of Verrès that certify the cession of the church and the Hospice of the Little St Bernard to the convent of Saint Gilles of Verrès by the bishop of Aosta, Bosone II. The parish of Saint Nicholas, that directly depended on the bishop of Aosta from 1466, suffered many dramatic sacks: the top was reached with the destructive fire of 1794, set by the French troops. The actual build ing dates back to 1796: the rest is a history to be imagined and to discover through La Thuile’s books and archives. A unique way to have the complete picture of the eventful vicissitudes of the territory.The parish church - close to which there is the rectory - is made of a unique hall, two lateral apses and the presbytery. The apses still have fragments of an altar with Solomonic columns, whereas in the presbytery, behindthe stone altar, there is a tabernacle of the XVIII century, coming from an altar of the convent of Saint Catherine of Aosta. The wooden crucifix, located above the triumphal arch (that may be dated between the XV and the XVI centuries) is very interesting. It is venerated by the La Thuile community because it was the protagonist of a prodigious fact in 1794. When the French troops destroyed everything, the church was sacked and damaged too, but the crucifix, located under the vault, remained there. Many soldiers tried to reach and destroy it, by walking on the internal cornice of the church, but unfortunately many died and the others gave up. On the vault there still is the inscription: Haec Christi imago caeteris cunctis bello vastatis 1794 mirabiliter remansit. Deo gratias (“Among all the things which were destroyed in the war of 1794, this image of Christ was miraculously saved.Thanks to God “). The pictures by Ettore Mazzini date back to 1945: they represent some episodes of Christ and Saint Nicholas lives and they are located all along the internal perimeter of the church. After having left the parish church and having gone through Paolo Debernard street, there is the Maison Debernard, the seat of the library, which often houses exhibitions and expositions, and of the historical archive, which keeps many ancient documents and old proofs. Here there are some documents which testify the change of the name of La Thuile during the centuries: right after the year 1000 the ancient Ariolica became “Thuilia”, “Thuilia”, “La Thueilli”, “La Tuile”, a toponym which gave cause for many interpretations. Does it come from the French term tuile, tile, because in the area there are slate quarry to extract the lose, used to cover the roofs? Or does it come from the Roman cognomen Tullius, maybe Tullius Cicero, a Cesar’s legate during the war against the Gauls in 54-52 b.C., which saw the Romans fighting on the Alpis Graia (that is to say the Little St Bernard pass)? This problem is still unsolved and, thus, it is really fascinating and curious. Going through the Debernard street there is the Saint Roch chapel [2], the patron saint of contagious sick people; it was built in 1630, after a long period during which the Black Death, brought by the invasion of 6000 German soldiers, killed thousands of people. Opposite the town hall, turning left, there is the Lunire, the steep street which brings to the hamlet of Moulin. There are no more signs of the old watermills for grinding that originated its name; however, there still is the Saint Anne chapel [3], surrounded by many buildings. Built in 1667, then destroyed by the French troops and rebuilt in 1742, it conserves a golden, painted, wooden altar dating back to the XVIII century with a statue of the Saint, whereas the statues of Saint Joseph and Saint Joachim, that accompanied Saint Anne, are today in the parish church in the centre of the town. Coming back towards the Moulin parking and turning right there is the hamlet of Thovex, which was one of the most important hamlets of the town, since it had many structures which guaranteed autonomy both to its inhabitants and to travelers: the dairy, the mill, the bakehouse, the inn. This hamlet has a mine past: in fact, its name was originated by the presence of tuff, used to build, whereas the “Grand Trou” was the ancient mine. Here the chapel, built in 1767, dedicated to Saint James and the Virgin of the Carmen [4], is in ruins and some of its wooden statues (Saint Lucy, Saint Barbara and Saint Louis of the French) are in the parish church. Opposite the hamlet of Thovex, being a sort of its appendix, there is the hamlet of Clou: in ancient times it was a fenced place, as the name, which comes from the Latin word clusum, says. The interior of the small chapel of Saint Lawrence [5], built in 1650, is characterized by many works of the painter Vauterin, but the most special are four paintings representing Saint Gotthard, Saint Alexius, “Notre Dame du Tout Pouvoir” and the martyrdom of Saint Erasmus. The Virgin and Child is the subject of two paintings dating back to the XVII century: in the first one the Virgin is between Saint Joseph and Saint Anne, whereas in the second she is with Saint Barbara and Saint Anthony. The last destination of the walk is the hamlet of Buic (that is to say boscus, since it is at the base of the forest): its houses are along the street; they are characterized by covered halls that permit the entrance to the various habitations. In the centre of the village there is the fountain with its wash-tub, whereas in the south-western area the is the chapel dedicated to Saint Lucy [6]. A nineteenth-century building, built over a preexistent oratory, this chapel was first dedicated to Saint Défendent. That is why the Saint is represented in the sculptural group of the XIX century - realized by a local artist - together with the Pity, Saint Barbara and Saint Lucy. In the internal area of the chapel there is also an unusual element for a place of worship, but the causes can be easily understood by analysing the history of the hamlet: an ancient pump used by the inhabitants of Buic to put out the fires.

Towards the Little St Bernard pass
Entrèves (1460 m.) - Petite Golette (1485 m.) - Pont-Serrand (1602 m.)
From the Tourists Office go towards Entrèves by crossing the bridge on the Rutor torrent. This position - between the Rutor and the Verney torrents - originated the name of the hamlet. In fact Entrèves means “between the waters”. The patron saint of the neo-gothic styled chapel of the hamlet is Saint Barbara [7]. She was venerated by its inhabitants because they though she protected it from the ruinous fire of 1794, which completely destroyed the other villages. The actual building is almost one hundred years younger (1876). The statue of the Saint is located of the wooden altar together with Saint Joseph, but she is also represented on one of the five paintings that surround the altar. The painting by Vauterin with the martyrdom of Saint Erasmus is really interesting. The sculptural Pity, dating back to the XVIII century and that is now in the sacristy of the parish church, also comes from the small chapel of Entrèves. This small, tiny building was renovated in 2011 thanks to the intervention of the Alpini of La Thuile. The structure close to the chapel, dating back to the XIX century, is another must-see, as well as the country house and the dairy farm opposite. These buildings are characterized by hip roofs. From Entrèves go towards the hamlet Petite Golette to reach the chapel of the Visitation [8]. This scene is represented on a painting of the XVIII century and is located in the wooden altar of the same period. The statues of the Crowned Virgin, Saint Nicholas, two angels with the instruments of the Passion and a golden, painted sculptural group of the Pity (XVI century), made by a sculptor from Aosta, are in deposit at the parish church. After having followed the national road which brings to the Little St Bernard pass for three kilometres, there is the hamlet of Pont-Serrand. The actual bridge dates back to 1872, but there already was a viaduct during the Roman epoch: it was indispensable - as it is today - to go over the profound rocky gorge where the Verney torrent flows. In the angular space delimited by the old and the new road towards the pass there is the chapel of Saint Bernard of Menthon [9] (the patron saint of alpinists and wayfarers), on whose façade there is a painting representing Saint Bernard who holds a dragon in chains at bay. Built for the first time in 1471, the chapel was rebuilt during the XVII century: in its internal, there is another sculpture of the Saint on the altar. The real peculiarity of the chapel is the grating that separates the area reserved to the priest and the one for believers: it is the unique example of this kind of divisor in the area of La Thuile. The whole village deserves an accurate visit: even if the buildings have been renovated, the architectures of the past are still recognizable, both the houses along the street - which were mainly used as habitations - and the external rural structures, like the ruins of the mill of Pont-Serrand, which was anciently set in action by a hydraulic wheel.

Hicking routes to discover the places of worship.




Funivie Piccolo San Bernardo S.p.A. Consorzio Operatori Turistici La Thuile
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