A Picturesque Village in the Mountains of Provence

The region of Provence also offers small villages in the mountains with few inhabitants and interesting heritage.

Saint-Etienne is a picturesque village located in the High valley of Tinée. It used to be a hub between the Mediterranean and North of Provence. Until the end of World War II, the hamlet was considered a nursery for sacerdotal and religious vocations. The number of churches proves this fervour.  There are seven churches in Saint-Etienne de Tinée and seventeen in all with the immediate surroundings.  The parish church of Saint-Etienne was rebuilt according to the drawings of architect Spinelli from 1784 to 1789. The Gothic choir escaped a fire and presents an exceptional vault  that spreads out like a star with ribs, tiercerons and formerets. The Gothic bell tower dates back to 1492, but the steeple was completed in 1669. A remarkable collection of jewellery and chasubles of the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries is on display in the church. The small Religious Art Museum installed in the chapel of Saint-Michael of the Black Penitents Brotherhood can also be visited. The Trinitarians Convent was erected and decorated with frescoes by an anonymous artist of the XVIIth century. The Trinitarians' vocation was to buy prisoners held in slavery. In the Chapel of Our Lady of Conception, the frescoes show trees symbolizing in their ascensional shape, the sacred character of the place.

The Chapel of Saint-Sebastian, located at the South entrance of the village offered a protection against the epidemics of plague and cholera coming fom the seaside. Nice is less than a hundred kilometers South. Built in the second half of the XVIth century, it has kept one of the few outside frescoes of this region. It was painted by Giovanni Baleison and represents the Virgin of Mercy. Inside the chapel, Giovanni Canavesio painted scenes related to the life of the Patron Saint, as well as the Creation of Adam and Eve in the counter-arches. The whole décor dates back to 1492. Part of Saint-Etienne de Tinée and linked by a gondola lift, Auron is an important ski resort at an elevation of 1250 to 2450 m, above the Valley of Tinée. On the road is found the Chapel of Saint-Maur, built in the XVIth century.  The apse is divided into two parts, one presenting the frescoes of the Holy Family and the other one the Crucifixion. The North wall tells the life of Saint-Maur and the South wall that of Saint-Sebastian.  The episodes of the Saint's life and the scene where the angels remove the arrows from the body of the martyr are quite impressive. They would be the work of Andrea de Cella. When in the region, you cannot miss the grand tour of the Mercantour Park, a wonderful place where nature is so preserved. 

Saint-Etienne de Tinée. 

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9a/Saint_Etienne_de_Tin%C3%A9e.jpg

Frescoes in the chapel of Saint-Sebastian by Giovanni Baleison, XVth century.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f1/Baleison_and_Canavesio_-_Main_altar_in_the_Chapelle_Saint-S%C3%A9bastien.jpg

Saint-Sebastian by Giovanni Canavesio, XVth century.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d3/Baleison_and_Canavesio_-_Main_altar_in_the_Chapelle_Saint-S%C3%A9bastien_-_detail.jpg

In the Mercantour Park.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Les_Longs.jpg

The ski resort of Auron near Saint-Etienne de Tinée.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/33/Autom_2005_053.jpg

Valley of Valmasque, the Lac Vert in the Mercantour Park.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Refuge_de_Valmasque.jpg

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Phoenix Montoya
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Posted on Nov 27, 2010