Religious heritage

Religious heritage

Churches, chapels and oratories

From the lake of Serre-Ponçon to Val d'Oronaye - Larche, the Ubaye valley has many churches and chapels, oratories.

Discover this heritage, which the mountain belt left permeable to the European currents of art and spirituality.

Despite the upheavals in the history of this frontier valley, it has preserved a rich heritage of architecture and painting, from the Romanesque age to the twentieth century.

The guides invite you to enter to discover a part of the social history of the valley of Ubaye.

Church of Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye

Our church, dedicated to the saints Peter and Paul, of romano-lombard style, is amazing because of its dimensions, the quality of the materials used, all from local origin, the strength and the simplicity of its architectural language. It's an historic monument. The oldest parts date back to the XIIth century and to the chalaisian monks of Boscodon. Restored and extended by the House of Savoy in the Quattrocento; hurt by the Protestants of Lesdiguières, by the national guards of Barcelonnette, by the seism of 1958 and rebuild thanks to the generosity of a family emigrated in Mexico; it has conserved the spirit that prevailed at its origins. At the centre of the city, at the centre of the cemetery of which all burial places face the altar of the sacrifice, it proclaims Jesus Christ dead and first resurrected among the dead people, exalting that way the man of which he's the archetype. It sings the glory of God. "Pray and Work" it says with its first builders.
In accordance with the image system of the roman art, our church in its parish enclosure is a man, Jesus. It reaffirms that each of us is unique because doted of a soul created that set him up in the eyes of God as a person, that at the end of the story of the Covenant that fallen person by Adam's default is, if she would, restored in the divine filiation by Jesus Christ's grace. The image of the human soul is the spire of our bell tower, road open towards the Kingdom of Heavens.

In the parish enclosure too he chapel of the penitents, a few times rebuilt through the ages, it recalls what was the Christianity lived on a day-to-day basis in this parish. Above the door a carved stone with three Fleur de Lys, hammered by the revolutionaries, evoked the visit of Louis XII during the Italian wars.

From the days when the town of Saint Paul, stop on the ways across the mounts, saw the artists of the Renaissance and the Baroque passing, the church preserves some fresco, altarpieces and an interesting collection of paintings, all recently restored by the municipality.

At the North side of the church, the war memorial.

Most of the time the war memorial is with no apparent link with the parish. It's on the village square where it glorifies the victory, -the heroes, the braves, the strengths… Here, the war monument, striking, sculpted at the request of the President Paul Reynaud, son of Saint Paul, by his friend Landowski, author of the Christ of Rio de Janeiro, is a tracing of the fresco of the church tympanum. It expresses the sacrifice of the son of the town watched in dignity by his mother and his battle companions.

A mourning, it's true, that’s the villages like ours can't get over.

Church of Saint Jacques Méolans-Revel

Church dedicated to St James the Greater, very old, datable to the XIIth century, reconstructed and restored several times over the centuries ( different materials on the old basis of tuff and the upper part of local blue/grey stone), situated in Revel on a promontory dominating the Ubaye Valley and facing the St Julien Church and the bell tower of Méolans.

It is possible that it was on the way of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela from Cuneo in Italia, as attested by the dedication of the church, the presence of a very beautiful marble statue representing St Jacques and dated XVth century, a 1851 Patritti's work showing St Jacques designating the empty tomb and the Risen Jesus, and the presence of a shell motif painted on the altar of the church of St Julien, in Méolans. ( once the road cut through the Ubaye River there and continued on the other side.)
The Church is directed towards the east. A niche on the west facade (portal) houses a copy of the St Jacques statue. The original one, restored thanks to the Meolans Municipality, is only shown at the feast of St Jacques as a result of the raps that previously occurred in this Church (including a wonderful old polychrome wooden statue of St Jacques).

The choir, square, with a vault of crossed ogives, presents a dissymmetry and a misalignment with the nave, what let us suppose that it was reconstructed further north for greater safety. This followed a subsidence towards the southwest, the slope and the precipice.

Inside there are some outstanding works:

  • A beautiful Pietà, popular workmanship and full of faith, with splendid warm colours, dating from the XVIIth century. From the same time, some amazing representation of the Apostle Paul (the Apostle Peter one having disappeared…), of St Jean Baptiste and of the Archangel Michael.
  • A donation of the rosary to saint Dominic dated from the XVIIth century. (the 2 collages of the bottom right corner have been added later, may be after a deterioration)
  • A wonderful XVIIth century walnut altar with an elm tabernacle dedicated to Saint Joseph
  • A stoup made with marble of Serennes dated from 1826
  • Very beautiful walnut credence in the sacristy

Initiated by the Municipality, the beautiful outside restoration was finished in 2012. An appeal for donations is open. You can participate through the Fondation du Patrimoine or the Association "St Jacques en chemins ".

The penitents

There was in every parish in Christianity, - it goes back to pope Saint Gregory the Great (VI° century)-, one or several confraternities. Some lay societies, men and women, of which no one is member by right, but voluntary to give generously of their times to the community prayer and charity. Enterprising confraternities, boisterous sometimes, rebellious to the point of annoying the bishops like in the XVIII° century when some prelates get to the point of forbidding it. Annihilated in France by the Revolution, they subsist in Italy. Close to us, the city of Nice has four of them. Their program can sometimes be read on the retable of their chapels' altars, in reference to MT, 25, 35-37:

"…for I was ahungered, and ye gave me meat:
 I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:
 I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
naked, and ye clothed me:
I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me."

 Very linked to the local life, they espouse the vicissitudes of it. Rarefied and spoiled by the times of "cash cow"; heavily taxed by the heresies, wars, famines and epidemics; risen, invigorated by the periods of re-evangelizing.

In the XIIIth century, with the new predication of the Dominicans, and the Franciscans, their contagious zeal inflame and bring back the people to the fervent prayer. First faced with the Cathar heresy, then the vaudois one, in time to face spiritually the hardship of the Black Death, the wars. In these times of forced cohabitation with death, the Christian soul is affected by the fact that the dead people could be left without prayer! Very naturally the penitents support the dying, build the sepulture of the indigents, pray for the rest of the souls.

In the XVIth century, the tridentine counter reform and Pope Pius V change the confraternities into schools of spirituality well built on the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the veneration of the Cross and the Rosary prayer, faced with the damages caused by the protestant reform and the wars associated. In time to hold on spiritually against the European disaster of the Thirsty Years War. If we believe our pictures and retables, the penitents of the Valley adopted very early the new devotion, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the veneration of the Cross and the reciting of the Rosary.

In the XVIIIth century, after the jansenist and pietist aberrations, the renewed Catholic is the work of the episcopate and the priests. The clergy is then remarkably trained and of quality. The model of the "Holy Priests" invented in the XVIIth century has become a  current model and it's already the time when the Valley, the holly valley, gives to the diocese a big share  of priests and religious. The church conducts a "grooming" of the parish life, especially through the parish visits. The confraternities become better organized, kept in check in their wills of independence or their folkloric activities, encouraged in their practices of the new devotion. Their recruiting, less popular maybe, doesn't get weaker.