From the moment you take your first steps in Moutiers, you can feel that the town is bursting with character, and much of this inimitable ambience comes from Moutiers’ exciting and varied history. From its days as a Celtic capital to the beating it took at the hands of the Saracens, the town has been through a lot over the centuries, and perhaps the single most beautiful testament to its illustrious history is St. Peter’s Cathedral.
History of Moutiers’ St. Peter’s Cathedral
The beautiful structure was built in the early 6th century, although the town had possessed a cathedral (of which no trace now remains) since at least the previous century. Throughout the next few centuries, the town was raided many times by the Saracens, during which the cathedral was destroyed and lay in ruin until, in the 1000s, the archbishop of Moutiers (then known as Tarentaise) became a prince of the Holy Roman Empire, meaning that he now had the requisite wealth to restore the cathedral to its former beauty.
Although the archbishop rebuilt the cathedral with his newly acquired funds, much of it has since been destroyed and rebuilt once again, leaving very little of this thousand-year-old build still standing. Only the apse, the choir and two of the towers adjacent to the latter date from this period.
The second major rebuild occurred in the 15th century, in an attempt to update the cathedral’s architecture to the Gothic. The cathedral was further modified in the 16th century, when the crypt was demolished in order to diminish the height of the choir and a dome was built, among other changes.
Those were the last of the major modifications to the cathedral (although a few adjustments were made) until the French Revolution and the arrival of the Cult of Reason. It was then that the cathedral became a Temple of Reason, and, in a symbolic egalitarian gesture, the steeples were torn down. In the absence of proper demolition techniques, this destroyed much of the cathedral with it, meaning that much of the old vaulting has, regrettably, been lost.
After the Revolution, St. Peter’s Cathedral was restored over the course of the 19th century, and it is this more modern build that you see today. While the region is primarily associated with Gothic architecture when it comes to historic buildings, St. Peter’s Cathedral, being a 19th century build, abandons the intricate vaulting and other Gothic flourishes for a majestic Neo-Classical style with a hint of Rococo. The building feels brighter and airier than most cathedrals, with the dome and altar decorated with exquisite 19th century frescoes and beautiful sculptures.
Not only is the cathedral beautiful in its own right, but it has a rare sense of history, making it highly recommended for anyone with an interest in architecture, in art or in the past.
How to Get to Moutiers
Moutiers is served by Geneva Airport but has no public transport links, meaning that you’ll have to drive or, alternatively, pre-book an affordable and convenient Geneva airport taxi with us. The journey is just shy of two hours along the A41, crossing the Franco-Swiss border. Don’t forget that you’ll have to pay a toll along the way!
Where to Stay
Terminus Hôtel des 3 Vallées – one of the few hotels located within Moutiers itself, Terminus Hôtel des 3 Vallées offers the ultimate location for anyone wanting to explore Moutiers and visit the cathedral on foot. The Terminus is also very reasonably priced, especially considering its location and quality.
Adrets d’en Haut – perfect for those seeking an authentic rural living experience, the lovely Adrets d’en Haut is built into renovated stables, only a short drive from Moutiers. Guests are served freshly baked bread and pastries for breakfast, and have access to a kitchen, complete with fondue equipment in case they fancy sampling this delicacy of the region.
Hotel le Savoy – while, for some, rural, cottage-like accommodation is their bread and butter, others may prefer more urbane surroundings. The latter should consider staying at Hotel le Savoy, which is as stylish as it is luxurious, and is also within easy driving distance of Moutiers. The delicious on-site French restaurant is also perfect for those days when you fancy a slap-up meal but don’t want to brave a winter’s night to get back.