Proud of its past and its traditions, the Commune of Saint Martin has also been involved in the restoration of its heritage and the preservation of its outstanding environment. Around the Notre Dame de la Vie Sanctuary, an emblematic building of Savoyard Baroque Art, there are about twenty churches and rural chapels – dating from the end of the 17th Century to the beginning of the 18th Century – chalets and mountain pasture hamlets frozen in time, a restored grain mill and a museum dedicated to the recent history of the valley. This « postcard village » today attracts an international clientèle, looking for great skiing but without sacrificing the good life of a village.
Once upon a time there was a village nestling in a high Savoyard valley: La Vallée des Belleville. The occupation of this valley dates from the second millennium before Jesus Christ. Archaeological digs have found tombs dating from the Neolithic period near some of the existing hamlets ( St Jean de Belleville, Les Esserts, St Laurent de la Côte). The valley was, without doubt, occupied during the Roman period. This can be seen by the prefix villa which designated a huge agricultural domain, and which is found attached to the names of certain hamlets (Villarenger, Villarbon, Villarabout). In the middle ages, the local Seigneurs and the archbishop of the Tarentaise shared the ownership of these lands, but from 1772 the community of Saint Martin gradually freed themselves from these feudal rights.
Isolated by the lack of roads, the delay in equipment (electricity didn’t arrive until 1953), La Vallée des Belleville was late in moving into the 20th Century. It needed all the conviction and pugnacity of Nicolas Jay, the Commune’s Mayor, to offer it a tourist destiny in the 60s. Its huge areas were the ideal land for the creation of Les Menuires (1963) then Val Thorens (1972).