⛪ The 9 Prettiest Religious Building of French-speaking Switzerland in 2020

Introduction


In this article, La Torpille presents the 9 most beautiful religious buildings in French-speaking or Western Switzerland. This listing does not include the several hundreds of churches in French-speaking Switzerland.

What is the main religion in Western Switzerland?

Of course, Christianity is by far the most practiced religion in French-speaking Switzerland with approximately 70% of the population. The rest is made up of non-believers (25%) and Islam (5%).

Christianity in Western Switzerland


Two significant periods in the history of Christianity are particularly important in French-speaking Switzerland:

  1. The spread of Christianity under the Roman Empire during the first five centuries AD
  2. The Protestant Reformation at the beginning of the 16th century.

Christianity and the Roman Empire


Christianity is a religion intimately linked to the Romans since the birth of Jesus Christ took place in the Near East in a region under the domination of Rome at that time.

Since the beginning of the spread of Christianity, from the birth of Jesus Christ, believers of this religion have been persecuted throughout the Empire, including in French-speaking Switzerland, a region that has been under Roman control since a few decades BC. The massacre of the Theban legion in the 3rd century could be cited as an example of persecution of Christians in the French-speaking part of Switzerland in the region of Saint-Maurice, even though this event is controversial.

A painting of Maurice, commander of the Theban Legion, massacred in the town of Agaune, which became Saint-Maurice in his honour.
A painting of Maurice, commander of the Theban Legion, massacred in the town of Agaune, which became Saint-Maurice in his honour.

Emperor Constantine authorized Christianity with the Edict of Milan in 313 and Emperor Theodosius even ended up adopting it as the religion of the Empire at the end of the 4th century shortly before the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire at its maximum extension in the 3rd century.
The Roman Empire at its maximum extension in the 3rd century.

Protestant Reformation


The Protestant Reformation is a movement originating in Germany and led by Martin Luther as early as 1517. The movement challenged the financial abuses of Catholicism with the use of “indulgences” where the believer could pay for the remission of a sin.

The Reformation spread rapidly in 1520 in Switzerland, which at that time had no French-speaking cantons except Fribourg. The introduction of Protestantism was done by canton and it can be observed that the two large cantons of Bern and Zurich adopted it while the central alpine cantons such as Uri, Schwitz, Unterwald or Lucerne, in the heart of Switzerland, retained Catholicism.

French-speaking Switzerland will also be divided between Protestants and Catholics depending on the canton. Valais and Fribourg remain Catholic. Geneva, Neuchâtel and Vaud become Protestant. Geneva becomes, thanks in particular to Calvin, the “Protestant Rome“.

Very interesting map on the spread of the Reformation in Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Very interesting map on the spread of the Reformation in Switzerland.

Religious buildings


All the prettiest religious buildings in French-speaking Switzerland visited by la Torpille, with the exception of the cathedrals of Geneva and Lausanne, are located in the Catholic regions, particularly in the Valais. They are categorized as follows:

  • Cathedrals
  • Hermitages
  • Abbey
  • Hospice
  • Basilica
  • Statue

Cathedrals


Western Switzerland has four cathedrals, two of which are Catholic in Sion and Fribourg and two Protestant in Lausanne and Geneva. Originally, a cathedral was the church where the “headquarters” of the bishop was located.

Cathedral of Lausanne


Notre-Dame Cathedral of Lausanne is the most beautiful cathedral in French-speaking Switzerland. It is possible to climb into the belfry, the tower with the bells, from which one can enjoy a view of the Lake Geneva basin and the Alps.

⛪ The cathedral from the Bessière bridge.
⛪ The cathedral from the Bessière bridge.
👁️ View from the belfry.
View from the belfry.

🎥 A video about Notre-Dame Cathedral of Lausanne.

Cathedral of Geneva


Geneva’s Saint-Pierre Cathedral has an astonishing neo-Gothic porch and a green copper spire that is easily recognizable. Its two towers can be visited with a view of the city of Geneva and in particular its bay in which the famous Jet d’eau can be seen. On a clear day, the Mont-Blanc is even visible.

The neo-gothic porch.
The neo-gothic porch.
👁️ View of Geneva bay.
View of Geneva bay.

🎥 A video about Geneva’s Saint-Pierre Cathedral.

Cathedral of Fribourg


St. Nicholas Cathedral in Fribourg has a unique tower in which it is possible to climb to the top after almost 400 steps. From the top, you can enjoy a view of the old town of Fribourg and the Fribourg Pre-Alps, including the Moléson.

The cathedral of Fribourg.
The cathedral of Fribourg.

👁️ View of the old town of Fribourg.
View of the old town of Fribourg.

🎥 A video about the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Fribourg.

Cathedral of Sion


The Cathedral of Notre-Dame du Glarier of Sion is built in the 15th century on the site of the two previous cathedrals. Unfortunately, it is not possible to climb the bell tower.

The cathedral of Sion and its bell tower.
The cathedral of Sion and its bell tower.

🎥 A video about the cathedral Notre-Dame du Glarier in Sion.

Hermitages


Hermitage of Longeborgne


The hermitage of Longeborgne is located at the bottom of the Borgne gorges in the locality of Bramois. Built in the 16th century, it has the peculiarity of having two chapels inside natural caves which expose on their walls “ex-vottos“, i.e. paintings in honour of the Virgin Mary. The esplanade allows you to enjoy a beautiful view on the upstream of the Borgne gorges.

The hermitage of Longeborgne.
The hermitage of Longeborgne.

👁️ View of the Borgne gorges from the hermitage.
View of the Borgne gorges from the hermitage.

🎥 A video on the site of the hermitage of Longeborgne.

Notre-Dame du Scex Chapel


The Notre-Dame du Scex chapel is literally embedded in the rock face above the Saint-Maurice railway station, making it an atypical place in French-speaking Switzerland. It can be reached in 30 minutes by a small Way of the Cross against the rock.

The Notre-Dame du Scex chapel in the rock face.
Chapelle Notre-Dame du Scex

👁️ View of Saint-Maurice and the Rhone valley.
View of Saint-Maurice and the Rhone valley.

🎥 A video on the site of the chapel Notre-Dame du Scex.

Abbey


The Abbey of Saint-Maurice d’Agaune is the oldest building in Western Europe, it is occupied by religious people for 1’500 years. In addition to the basilica, it houses the remains of ancient churches and the treasure room.

The bell tower of the abbey of Saint-Maurice.
The bell tower of the abbey of Saint-Maurice.

🎥 A video about the Abbey of Saint-Maurice.

Hospice


The Great St. Bernard Hospice is located at the pass of the same name at 2473 metres just before the Italian border. Occupied by canons (chanoines) for almost 1,000 years, it contains the longest series of meteorological measurements in the entire Alpine region. The main building contains the treasure of the hospice and the tomb of General Desaix. Nearby, a kennel houses the famous St. Bernard dogs during the summer.

The buildings of the Great St. Bernard Hospice.
The buildings of the Great St. Bernard Hospice.

Basilica


The French-speaking part of Switzerland has five basilicas:

  1. Abbey of Saint-Maurice
  2. Valère Basilica in Sion
  3. Notre-Dame Basilica in Geneva
  4. Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption Basilica in Neuchâtel
  5. Notre-Dame du Valentin Basilica in Lausanne

Only the last two basilicas, the most interesting, were visited by la Torpille.

Valère Basilica


The basilica of Valère is one of the two emblematic figures of Sion with the Tourbillon castle just opposite. In 1987, the church of Valère was raised into a basilica by John Paul II. It houses the oldest playable organ in the world and within its fortifications is the Valais Historical Museum.

The basilica is surrounded by fortifications and was, in addition to its religious character, a real military fortress. The church tower was used as a keep.

Valère from Tourbillon.
Valère from Tourbillon.

👁️ The city of Sion with the Majorie castle in the foreground.
The city of Sion with the Majorie castle in the foreground.

🎥 A drone video about Valère and Tourbillon.

Statue


The statue of Christ the King in Lens in central Valais is the only statue of Christ in French-speaking Switzerland. It was built in 1935 and is 30 metres high, half of which is the pedestal.

Pour l’anecdote, la statue du Christ-Roi la plus haute du monde se trouve à Świebodzin en Pologne avec une hauteur de la statue sans le tertre de 33 mètres. Voir les plus importantes statues du Christ dans le monde.

La statue du Christ-Roi depuis le bas de l’édifice.
La statue du Christ-Roi depuis le bas de l'édifice.

👁️ View eastward from the statue of Christ the King.
View eastward from the statue of Christ the King.

🎥 A drone video of the Christ the King statue.

Mapping of religious buildings


The following link shows the geographical location of religious buildings in French-speaking Switzerland.

map religious building western Switzerland