The Charmaix chapel in Valfréjus

A must-see site at Valfréjus. A medieval chapel clinging to the rock face, home to the Black Madonna to whom many miracles are attributed. The Charmaix chapel is Maurienne's most visited pilgrimage site.

Prayers, miracles and devotion

A sanctuary of mysterious origin

The origins of the original sanctuary and the statue of the Virgin Mary are highly hypothetical and, one might say, "lost in the mists of time". Even before the introduction of Christianity to the Maurienne, there was probably already a small prayer site leaning against the rock. A place where travellers could ask for divine help before crossing a particularly dangerous passage over the Grand Vallon torrent (the magnificent stone bridge did not exist at the time).

At the beginning of the 1st millennium, the first Christian oratory was set up in this area to house a statue of the Virgin Mary. Rather than turning to ancient pagan divinities, travelers now sought the protection of the mother of Jesus Christ. The road then led travellers or pilgrims to present-day Italy via the Col de la Vallée étroite or the Col de la Roue (passes at just over 2000 m altitude), providing quick access to the Bardonnechia valley.

Visit to the Chapelle du Charmaix in Valfréjus
Discover the must-see sites at Valfréjus, the Charmaix chapel and its black Madonna.

Chapel and Black Madonna

Miracles and answered prayers

Historical accounts attribute the accomplishment of numerous miracles to the Black Madonna, who stands at the back of the chapel in sumptuous embroidered garments. Numerous ex-votos affixed to the walls of the chapel (so many that the walls were covered with them, some were removed and transferred to thechurch in Modane) bear witness to the prayers made to the Black Madonna of Le Charmaix and the thanks given to her.

Discover the must-sees at Valfréjus, the Charmaix chapel in summer

Pilgrimage in September

The altarpiece was offered by the Marquise Barolo of Turin in 1850. From 2008 to 2009, it was beautifully restored by Marie Christine Guilloud (Restorer of wall paintings and polychrome sculptures). In 1918, Abbot Demaison, parish priest of Modane, had a bronze statue of the Virgin placed on the roof of the chapel.

A pilgrimage is organized every year on the first Sunday of September. Every year, this pilgrimage, presided over by a bishop, attracts many faithful from Savoy and Piedmont, from the Briançonnais and the Dauphiné. The procession starts in the morning from the church of Modane. Along the way up to the chapel of Charmaix, 15 oratories line the route for prayer and meditation.

The legend

Historical accounts attribute the accomplishment of numerous miracles to the Black Madonna who stands at the back of the chapel in sumptuous embroidered clothes. The origins of the cult are immemorial! The Modanese decided to build a chapel for her at the very beginning of the 15th century.

The legend: in the Middle Ages, in Savoy, near Modane, the statue of the Black Madonna of Charmaix already existed. She lived modestly in the rock, in a small oratory carved in the mountain. It dominated and overhung a strong and capricious torrent (the torrent of Charmaix).

The shelter was basic but the place was so famous that all those who went from the Maurienne to the Piedmont went to kneel there. This modest oratory attracted processions, pilgrimages and daily devotions. So much so, that the inhabitants decided to offer the Black Madonna of Charmaix a more suitable shelter. She was therefore installed with great pomp on the altar of the church of Modane. But astonishment, the next morning the Virgin had disappeared! Finally, a person who arrived from Charmaix announced to the general astonishment that the Virgin was in her original niche, in the small oratory of Charmaix.

Convinced that the Virgin was showing them her attachment to the mountains, the inhabitants of Modane decided to find a more suitable place, less isolated and wild than Le Charmaix. They found a small esplanade above the river Arc. Once the work was well underway, it was decided to move the statue of the Virgin Mary to a new oratory built next to the chapel that was being built next to Modane. But the next day, the Virgin had vanished again!

The inhabitants found the statue again, in its original shelter at Charmaix... But to top it all off, the Virgin had brought with her the materials needed to build her chapel! The Modanese took back the statue and recovered the materials. But the next day, the statue had disappeared again, returned to Le Charmaix. A worker, wanting to know what was going on during the night and to unmask the little joker, stayed on the construction site. Tired of waiting, he fell asleep ... He too was miraculously moved to Charmaix!

Discover the must-sees at Valfréjus, the Charmaix chapel in winter

Finally, the parish priest of Modane took a stand: "The Virgin is quite clear: a chapel is needed at Le Charmaix. She protects travelers crossing the Alps and therefore wishes to remain there. So the locals brought the Virgin back to her little Charmaix oratory, and the chapel was built on the spot. The chapel was later enlarged and the stone bridge built. A chapel that today offers a superb site to discover in summer and winter alike.