Prarreyer Chapel

Historic site and monument, Religious heritage, Chapel in Prarreyer - Versègères

  • This chapel is dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Flüe

  • Before the 1940s, the hamlet had no chapel at all. There was no angel, said the poet, to wake the peasants at dawn; no angel to signal to them that the day was over. While all around it the bells of the churches and chapels of Bruson, Le Châble, Sarreyer, Versegères, Champsec and Médières pealed with joy, Prarreyer remained silent. A Christian village suffers from such silences. The parish priest Louis-Marie Ducrey suffered with it. When he died, it would have been apt to say: Passion gave...
    Before the 1940s, the hamlet had no chapel at all. There was no angel, said the poet, to wake the peasants at dawn; no angel to signal to them that the day was over. While all around it the bells of the churches and chapels of Bruson, Le Châble, Sarreyer, Versegères, Champsec and Médières pealed with joy, Prarreyer remained silent. A Christian village suffers from such silences. The parish priest Louis-Marie Ducrey suffered with it. When he died, it would have been apt to say: Passion gave life to his sermons and more passion made the chapels spring up from the rocks...

    It is true to say that one needs a certain amount of courage to undertake such a construction in the midst of a war (since it dates back to 1942–1943).

    Is it really the time to build a chapel when all labour is diverted elsewhere and the key materials are rationed? It certainly is. In spite of the war, in spite of doubts even from those above, the chapel rose from the earth. As is befitting, it is dedicated to Nicholas of Flüe, the appointed protector of his homeland. As the parish priest Father Ducrey said: “What is the point of guarding our borders if, within the country itself, we don’t know how to pray to the country’s protector saint!”

    The architect Zimmermann was not afraid to break with traditional rules under the circumstances. Prarreyer chapel is circular and bears little resemblance to other chapels around Valais; it is more similar to the architecture on the other side of the Alps. The fresco was created by Albert Chavaz, a Savièse-based painter who was born in Geneva. It is full of rich tones and demonstrates a particularly unique composition. Let’s not forget the artisans who undertook this big project: the company Maurice Vaudan and head stonemason M. Brouchoud.


    The open bell tower shelters a little bell which bears the names of both of its sponsors, Berthe Vaudan and Emile Roduit, and the words: Michelle-Irène, We beg for peace and unity for the people of Switzerland – 1943


    To cite the canon-poet Marcel Michellod, the Prarreyer chapel is like a battle of ideas: the rotunda dotted with little round windows brings together the experience of the Romanesque period, the richly-coloured coffered ceiling represents the endeavours of the Renaissance, the exposed bell tower recalls the boldness of the Modern period, and the specialised artistic techniques used in Chavaz’s magnificent fresco highlight the skill of the master craftsmen of the Giotto period.

    "A chapel! What a blessing for a village!” exclaimed Monsignor Grand, episcopal vicar, when the building was consecrated on 14 November 1943. It remains only for us to express that wish, so dear to the parish priest Ducrey, for joyful peace to flow from Prarreyer across the country as from a new Ranft, and that in this little hamlet in the valley of Bagnes, Saint Nicholas of Flüe shall raise his welcoming arms to future generations.

    By one who calls Prarreyer home

    P.S. Prarreyer chapel has undergone a few changes since 1943. These include the addition of a modern Way of the Cross in the form of a crown of thorns. The work of Anton Mutter, from Naters, it aims to capture the mystery of Christ as he shares in our suffering and leads us towards the glory of the resurrection. The characters are made of cut and forged iron, and the angle of the larch wood cross expresses the pain of each Station of the Cross. The fragile roof built during the war needed fortifying in 1972, and in order to ring the bell three times per day, it was necessary to use electro-mechanical methods.

    The fragile roof built during the war needed fortifying in 1972, and in order to ring the bell three times per day, it was necessary to use electro-mechanical methods.
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