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Of Saint Martin de Belleville

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.

La Vallée des Belleville.

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.

Up to the 19th Century

The valley, renowned for the richness of its mountain pastures, lived to the rhythm of its agricultural and pastoral activities. Around Saint Martin there were about twenty hamlets inhabited throughout the year, where the land was cleared for culture and pasture land. The demographic decline begun at the start of the 20th Century. From a seasonal winter emigration, the Bellevillois passed to a definitive exodus towards the large towns or the capital of the Tarentaise, Moûtiers, profiting from the dynamism generated by the emerging industries.

Saint Martin, in the 60s

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).

Saint Martin in the 80s

A tourist development project drew up the village resort that the valley was missing : Saint Martin de Belleville. Taking onboard lessons from the past, the project was perfectly managed in size (a maximum of 2 000 tourist beds) and respected the local buildings. The new tourist ensemble baptised Les Grangeraies, adopted the codes of traditional architecture : limited height buildings, adaptation of the buildings to the slope, visible stonework or pink rendered façades, slate roofs. It grafted itself onto the village without taking over. At the same time, Saint Martin was linked into the 3 Vallées ski area. Saint Martin de Belleville thus became « the village of Les 3 Vallées ». In 2003, an 8-seater gondola consolidated its access to the pistes.


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