Vars and the villages
In summer, Saint Marcelin is a floral village, whereas in winter it is an illuminated village.
As you stroll around, you can see:
- The village’s four fountains, Borel, Pra Coustan, Chanalette and Garelle, which are fed from the sources of the Rivet and the Adoux.
In the past, these fountains were created and maintained by the local residents.
In 1990, an aesthetic touch was added to the four fountains, when they were surrounded with wood and decorated with flowers.
- A large number of wooden sculptures created by Julien David.This artist breathes new life into the trees that he so loves. Allow yourself to be charmed by an original garden featuring animals: a giraffe, stork, raven, fox, chamois, peacock, and donkey, among others.
You can also contemplate the landscape and admire the sunset while sitting on unusual seats or the skis worn by Marcellin, the skier carved out of ash wood. He’s 6.5 m tall and over 250 years old!
Saint-Marcellin was the first and is the oldest village in Vars.
Archaeological digs have revealed objects and jewellery dating from the late Bronze Age to the Gallo-Roman era.
These discoveries prove that the Vars valley has been inhabited since the most ancient times.
Until 1962, Saint-Marcellin was the county town of Vars, before it was transferred to Sainte Marie.
The Château trail
Le Val d'Escreins
If you walk around Saint-Marcellin, search for the sundials on some of the houses. You will see mottoes written in French or in the local dialect: “Without sun I am nothing and you without God you cannot do anything," or "Lou tems passo, passo lou ben: time passes, spend it well,".
Shortly before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes almost the whole population of Vars was Protestant. Following a decision of the Royal Council, the first Temple in the village of Saint Marcellin, located in Garelle, was destroyed in 1685.
The current Temple was built in the first half of the 19th century. Its simplistic architecture recalls the spirituality of Félix Neff (Swiss Protestant pastor): centred on listening only to the Word of God.
The Temple houses a granary of plenty, which takes the form of a large storage unit where provisions were placed for the most needy.
Unlike the Temple, the architecture of the Church of St. Marcellin is much more complex and bears the marks of its construction in several stages.
Built before the 15th century, then enlarged around 1530 during the campaign of massive rebuilding of churches (undertaken by the Archbishop of Embrun), the Church was burned during the Duke of Savoy’s armies’ sacking in 1692.
The Church of St. Marcellin has preserved many elements from before the eighteenth century, including the two Guillestre marble lions and the vaults of the choir. The only notable change was the widening of the nave.
Did you know?
- The Saint James scallop shells, on the relief of the portal of the Church of Saint Marcellin, attest to pilgrims passing, from Ubaye, en route to Santiago de Compostela. In fact, Vars is surrounded by 2 basic reception places for pilgrims: The Magdelaine and the Chapel of the Madelaine.
- The Château of Saint-Marcellin was not built as a fortification to protect the village, but rather as a lookout post designed to defend a strategic crossroads between the Durance, the Ubaye and the Queyras. Thus, all the threats coming from the Col de Vars were visible from the top of one of the main Guillestrois watchtowers.
- The lions at the entrance to the Church of Saint-Marcellin are identical to those found in the Church of Guillestre. In the past, these lions had columns on top of them.
- The bread oven was the property of the village community. People booked their turn by placing a log in front of the door.
- The ancient fountains were built in a hollowed out larch trunk. In 1810, the inhabitants of Saint-Marcellin called for a fountain. The quote at the time was 2010 francs.
- The legend of the Château witches: One day, a respected man from Embrun went to visit the ruins of the château. He came back frightened and told the villagers about his misadventure. He had heard strange voices but had not met anybody... The locals let him go back without telling him that two wild and cantankerous sisters lived in a hovel located near the ruins of the Château. In the evening, they dressed in white sheets and shouted strangely to frighten the inhabitants of Saint-Marcellin.
- In 1916, a fire ravaged Le Val d'Escreins, making this hamlet a ghost town. It was not rebuilt because it had already lost a large part of its population to emigration around 1892.
- One Sunday all the inhabitants of Escreins went hunting, instead of going to the Sunday service. When they arrived at the summit, they felt that they deserved a good slap as punishment for having forgotten Sunday Mass. This is how the peak in question got its name La Main de Dieu, or The Hand of God.
One day a goatherd, who was in the habit of driving her flock through the Font Sancte valley, followed one of her goats, who often wandered off, and discovered a "beautiful spring of limpid water.” To preserve the memory of this miracle the goatherd asked to be buried in the valley where a simple wooden cross was placed and the source was named Font Sancte, the Holy Font.
Shuttle service timetable
In order to make your travel between the villages, the resort, Le Col de Vars or the Val d’Escreins nature reserve easier, Vars resort offers a free shuttle service.
View the timetable for the summer season
Vars resort offers a shuttle service between the Montdauphin SNCF railway station and Vars
View the timetable