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Stage town for the 5th time

Sub-prefecture of Savoie (73)

Population: 7,600 (Saint-Jeannais, Saint-Jeannaises)

Specialities: crozets, diots and pormoniers (Savoy sausages), farcement (potato cake with bacon), Beaufort, Bleu de Bonneval, Termignon (cheeses), Persan (red wine)

Personalities: Doctor François-Emmanuel Fodéré (founder of forensic medicine), Pierre Balmain (couture), Joseph Opinel (founder of cutlery), Damien Saez (singer), Kamel Belghazi (actor), Robert Ciurleo (producer of musicals), Jean-Noël Augert, Jean-Pierre Vidal, Jean-Baptiste Grange (skiing), Damien Spagnolo (mountain biking), Jérôme Meyer (bouldering), Gilbert Chaumaz (cycling)

Sport: some thirty sports associations (2,320 members). Events: a Chambéry Savoie Handball match every year, Festival du Vélo en Maurienne (June), 10 km de St-Jean (October, running)

Economy: metallurgy (aluminium, Trimet company). Important economic link with Italy (1.5 hours from Turin). Tourism (strategic position at the crossroads of 24 ski resorts, including the Sybelles ski area)

Festivals: La Semaine Culturelle (May, shows, concerts, etc.), Fête de la Saint-Jean (June), Festival Charoc (Rock, July), Cloister Arts (July)

Labels: Tour de France cycling town / Rando Gravel / Cycling area / High Valleys of Savoy Land of Art and History / Most beautiful detours in France / 3-flower town in bloom

Websites / social networks: www.saintjeandemaurienne.fr / www.saintjeandemaurienne.com / www.facebook.com/tourisme.saintjeandemaurienne / https://twitter.com/Stjeanmaurienne / http://instagram.com/otstjm / www.cyclo-maurienne.fr


SAINT-JEAN-DE-MAURIENNE TODAY

  • The birthplace of Opinel

It was in the hamlet of Gevoudaz, a stone's throw from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, that Joseph Opinel, the son of a tailor, perfected the knife that bears his name in a corner of his father's workshop. This was in 1890. It was an immediate success, and the small workshop on the banks of the Arvan spread, still in the hands of the same family. Joseph settled near Chambéry in 1915 but chose the Crowned Hand as his trademark: this blessing hand recalls the origins of the knife, as it is based on the coat of arms of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. The town has had relics of Saint John the Baptist (the three fingers of the hand that baptised Christ) since the 6th century, and owes its name, its coat of arms and its rich architectural heritage (cathedral, crypt, cloister) to them. As for Opinel, its history with Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne continues. One of Joseph's brothers, Jean Opinel, set up his workshop here, which produced knives until the 1980s. Under the leadership of Jacques Opinel, the workshop then housed a museum that quickly became one of the most popular in Savoy, prompting Jacques and his son Maxime to enlarge it and redesign its presentation from top to bottom. The modern museum now welcomes over 55,000 visitors a year. Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne also has its Opinel roundabout, adorned with a giant knife made by Jean-Claude Opinel. And the history of Opinel and cycling is a long one: every year in August, the “Montée de l'Opinel” (Opinel Climb) takes riders from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to the village of Albiez (Col du Mollard), berth of the family, where can be found another monument celebrating the Maurienne knife that conquered the world.  


SIGHTS:  

  • Saint-Jean-Baptiste Cathedral

Foundation: 6th century

Style: Romanesque and Gothic.

History: the history of the cathedral begins with the legend of Saint Thecla, who brought back three phalanges of Saint John the Baptist from Egypt in the 6th century. The bishopric of Maurienne was created around these relics. It remained in existence until 1966, when the diocese became an archdiocese covering the entire department. The cathedral, however, did not lose its status and the bishop of Savoy had three cathedrals to choose from. The value of the relics gave the town its name as well as its symbol: three crowned fingers as a reminder of these three remains. Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne became a place of pilgrimage and meditation. The town grew up around this institution. The relics are not visible on a daily basis. On major Christian holidays, the canons may show them to the faithful.

Features: founded to house the relics of Saint John the Baptist, rebuilt in the 11th century and enlarged in the 15th century, it houses an exceptional collection of Gothic choir stalls. Under the choir is a crypt, a masterpiece of early Romanesque art. Adjacent to the cathedral, the 15th-century cloister is a haven of peace and serenity.

Special features: the cathedral is often referred to as a double church, as it is so closely linked to the neighbouring church of Notre Dame, a Romanesque parish church (not open to visitors), its bell tower and the former bishop's palace, a Baroque palace.

Listed as: Historical Monument in 1899, 1906 and 1933  

  • Bishop's palace

Construction: 18th and 19th centuries.

History: the Maurienne diocese dates back to the 6th century, and the palace was repeatedly destroyed, remodelled and enlarged until the early 19th century.

Features: an imperial staircase leads visitors up to the grand salon, which houses a fine example of civil Baroque art.

Today: the palace is home to the Maurienne Museum of Folk Costume, Arts and Traditions.

Listed as: municipal building in 1905, then as a Historic Monument in 1984.  

  • Bell tower

Construction: 11th century

Style: Romanesque and medieval.

History and features: the bell tower is a former chapter house keep. It had a 39-metre spire, which was destroyed by order of the French revolutionary Albitte in 1794. Its destruction led to its separation from Notre Dame church. The bell tower was covered with a gable roof in the early 19th century and restored in 1903 and 1988.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1933.  

  • Correrie or Tabellion Tower

Construction: 14th century

Style: medieval.

History and characteristics: this tower, rectangular in plan and defined as a "fortified house", represents an important milestone in the political development of medieval Savoy. Known by the name of its two successive functions, correrie (justice) and tabellion (tax), it is made up of three elements: the tower itself, of medieval construction, a modern forebuilding, and a staircase, also modern, which serves the upper floors of the forebuilding and the tower. The tower has three vaulted floors, the last of which has retained its characteristic medieval appearance.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 2012.  

  • Opinel Museum

Created in a former workshop where the famous knife was made, the museum was completely renovated in 2013. Alongside the forge and the machines still in place, a modern scenography allows visitors to discover the manufacturing processes of yesterday and today, as well as the entire history of the Opinel family and the famous Savoy knife. Open all year round, free admission.

  • Gérard-Philippe Theatre

Built: 1934

Style: Art Deco.

Features: the theatre is a fine example of the style of the 1930s. Renovated in 2014, the Gérard Philippe Theatre has a 328-seat auditorium and offers a great programme of shows throughout the year.

History: historically, the theatre was built in response to the major lack of infrastructure between the wars, a period of strong demographic growth thanks to the development of industry. The building was first used as a village hall, ballroom and cinema. It was finally converted into a theatre in 1978.


TO EAT:  

  • The Fontcouverte snails

Since 2006, snail breeder Carole Milan has set up in the village of Fontcouverte, between Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and La Toussuire, and sells her produce at markets, grocery shops and delicatessens in the region, as well as in a number of restaurants. The farm, known as “L'Escargot de la Maison Blanche” (The White House Snail), has around a thousand snails and can be visited by prior arrangement from June to September.  

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