SAVOIE: La Maurienne

Les Hurtières
From Chambéry through Bessans to the Averole valley, the routes go over two passes on the territory of the Duchy of Savoy, the Arnès pass (3,010 m), and its descent into the Ala valley, and the Autaret pass (3,072 m), which descends towards the Viù valley. Turin is reached through ‘Marguerite’s Lands’. This territory, the Lanzo valleys (Alà and Viù), ruled by the Laws of Marguerite written in the mid fourteenth century, remained
faithful to the House of Savoy in the sixteenth century.
La Maurienne – Site 13a

Les Hurtières

For centuries, all sorts of troops crossing the Basse Maurienne have had to go over the Mont‐Cenis Pass one way or another. At the entrance of the valley, the armies would come up to the ‘verrou’ de Charbonnières, an erosional landform created by the action of a glacier, where the castle of Charbonnières stands. The castle’s fortifications, built as early as the eleventh century, were repeatedly besieged, notably by Francis I in 1536 and the Spanish in 1743. Some famous events, which are still part of the collective memory, have been shaped more by fancy than history. These include:
Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in 218 BC. After he left the Isère valley, Hannibal is believed to have reached la Maurienne over the Cucheron Pass (1,240 m) which links the Huiles valley to the plateau of Hurtières.
‐ Epic poems called ‘chansons de geste’, such as a version of The Song of Roland, written around 1120, which relates the ‘passage of Charlemagne across the Maurienne valley’. He was ordered by an angel to give over the Durandal sword to a ‘Comte Capitaine’. This version is based on the hypothesis that the iron out of which the hero’s sword was made came from Les Hurtières.
The iron mines of the village of Saint‐Georges‐d’Hurtières were influential all across Savoy as early as the eighteenth century. The local peasants who benefited from a customary law which allowed them to search for valuable iron seams were able to develop their own business. The village then experienced a period of expansion. From 1566 onwards, any local steel bore the mark of the elephant. The exploitation of the mines progressively stopped by the late nineteenth century.

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