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Samoëns is much more than a vast ski area. It is also a traditional village of which the first writings mention it as far back as the 12th century. Like its Gros-Tilleul dating from 1435, the village has a very rich history and heritage. Many achievements and vestiges of this unique history are to be explored and offer us a gentle journey through time.
Samoëns has a tradition of stonemasons dating back to the 16th century. As it became increasingly difficult to make a living from farming alone, residents of Samoëns began to leave each year between May and October for major construction sites in European cities. By returning to the village, those inhabitants brought back advanced know-how in architecture, and, little by little, knew how to specialize in stone cutting. It was in 1659 that the society of masons was born in Samoëns and since then their achievements have only multiplied.
Those trips abroad will give a multicultural touch to the heritage of the village. These very diverse influences can be found in the onion bell towers of the 9 chapels, an inspiration from the Austrian Tyrol. The valley at the time was not as closed as one might think. The inhabitants did not hesitate to go on the paths and the big passes. Thus, Samoëns is indeed the fruit of an intense cultural mix.
The traces of this heritage are visible everywhere in the village and its hamlets. All traditional houses come from this know-how. The work of stonemasons can be found in the door frames and in many architectural details. They can also be admired in the many fountains, washhouses and basins in the village. In the center of the village, the Grenette (covered market) is one of the notable achievements to discover. Finally, one of the remarkable pieces of the village is the holy water font of the Church. Made in 1844 by the master mason Désarnod, it is entirely made of black Tines marble, an exceptional rock quarried near the village. column_text]
Marie-Louise Jaÿ, born in 1838 in the village, is an important figure in the history of Samoëns. She left for Paris when she was 16, and married Ernest Cognacq. Together, they created the La Samaritaine store.
However, Marie-Louise Jaÿ remained attached to Samoëns and decided to finance the renovation of several buildings, including the village church. In love with the heritage of her native town, she finances the construction of other buildings such as the doctor’s house, which has become the museum space.
Above all, she had the idea of creating the Botanical Garden, a space then unique in its kind, intended for walks and later for science, measuring 3.7 hectares. Today this park has more than 2,500 species of plants. At the time, this creation was intended to attract large families for their resorts, English mountaineers (like Alfred Wills) and Genevans attracted by nature (arrived by train), and especially to bring them back every year. . We can thus say that Marie-Louise Jaÿ was a pioneer in tourism, she had detected the potential held by these places.
At that time, the village of Samoëns was linked to Annemasse by a train line, the CEN. From the beginning of the 20th century, the city then tried to develop the practice of skiing and tried to attract tourists thanks to its mountains, in particular by developing guide services.
The inhabitants of Samoëns are called the “Septimontains” in reference to the 7 mountain pastures which surround the village. Once neglected, these mountain pastures are now coming back to life thanks to an attraction for agriculture. It is therefore possible to visit these historic mountain pastures that are significant for the valley. By discovering these places, one can imagine the life of yesteryear and enjoy a breath of fresh air.
Samoëns also persists in its tradition of stone sculpture, thanks to its twinning with the town of Fordongianus in Sardinia which also has great expertise in this area. You can also see the particular sculptures of this Italian village in Samoëns, which are distinguished by their pink stone.
Now, when you walk in Samoëns, keep your eyes peeled and pay attention to the details of the architecture around you. The traditional heritage is lurking everywhere and begging to be discovered. It is an endless source of curiosity available to you!
To find out more, discover all the details through guided tours by heritage guides.
A big thank you to Aurélie Veisy, heritage guide, for her time and knowledge !
Office de Tourisme de Samoëns
66, place de l’Office de Tourisme
Tél. : +33 (0) 126.96.36.199.28
Mail : email@example.com
Open each days from 9am to 12am and from 14.30pm to 18.30pm..