Secrets of Lake Annecy: La Grotte de Sévrier
One of my favourite things about travel is the simple act of discovery. Sometimes, as humans, it would seem we’ve become far too conventional. We need a coffee so we get a coffee, we all drink it in an almost identical manner so why not do the same thing with our holidays and travel? This is one of the main reasons that the beaches are full, why Barcelona is about to throw out half of its tourists, why English tourists all wear those silly, silly hats and get burned wearing nothing but a pair of shorts in spring…, and it’s the same reason why on a beautiful spring day, cycling Lake Annecy, we were the only two people scrambling around, what sits as a forgotten grotto (La Grotte de Sévrier) on the hill above Sévrier.
While not unique the grotto is beautiful and so very quiet and from the top it has swoon-worthy views of Lake Annecy and the little towns that surround it. There isn’t very much information available but here’s what I’ve managed to piece together – mostly from old articles and from the reveries of locals.
It seems clear that the cave was put together in 1898/9 by one Abbe Pierre Chapuis, a newly ordained priest, who taught in Sévrier. He was known to have a strong dedication, not just to the children to who he taught, but also to the Virgin Mary, and was exceptionally skilled in manual labour, including mechanical works, watchmaking, masonry, electricity and even astronomy. A man to whom the world held no secrets it would seem. It was with these interests and devotions in mind that on November 20th 1898, he along with two others signed a notarised deed to whit, Firstly: a chestnut of land with access to the local road; secondly: a source located above, at a place called “The Combettes”. From then on the Parish of Sévrier was legally the owner of a 400 m² plot of land…where now stands La Grotte de Sévrier.
Later, the Abbot Chapuis, aided by the young people of the parish put his manual skills to work. He created by himself, the foundations of the cave. He then had stones from the river along with limestone blocks from Semnoz transported by trucks and the sand was extracted from a small quarry, which if you ever visit the cave, you’ll recognise as a small turning point for cars just a hundred metres of so away. According to local testimonies, the Abbot then made the plans and directed the construction.
From there on the story has become hard to follow, as it seems the good Abbot may have had his busy hands in the similar, much better known Our Lady of Lourdes grotto in Lourdes.
However, regardless of the story – there is, as always with stories of religion, a moral to be learned – and that is rather too simply – please don’t travel to say you’ve travelled – travel to live, experience, explore and where possible, find wonderful local stories.