When the light is just right on a hot August day, the pervading auroral gloom is banished by the prismatic sun of J G Ballard cascading down the misty, still half-hidden slopes of the Rhône-Alpes. Crystalline beams reach down the sharp declivity like the buttresses of an immense cupola of glass, focusing their intensity on a single spire of a white-washed, arid, square upthrust of Catholicism. Under the blue lintel of cherubs and the Virgin Mary a large ball of red and white flowers swings faintly in a summer breeze. Fixed to the wall on the right side of the door is a rough stone basin, a little pool of greening water sitting under the benediction of a blooming cross, trefoils on every point.
This is Morzine’s chapel of Saint Bridget of Sweden whose mystic revelations were good enough to secure her tiny immortality at the edge of a road at the fringes of this ski-cycle town in the Alps. Built by 1808, with a fine bell tower installed to stave off the coming rage of Zeus with his stormy thunderbolts, the altar, crucifix and frame were created by Francois Baud, the father of Laurent who is the artist behind the fresh frescoes inside.
All that remains of this nineteenth century ecclesiastical wonderment is a 1994 refurbishment; luckily not given over to IKEAn overtones or Volvic solidity – despite the proximity of Evian. It is the kind of place you cycle past in a forgotten hurry as you move from the relative hubbub of Morzine down the only road north to Lake Leman (Geneva) that snakes through these mountains.
Stepping inside the porch I enter a cool world where light pours through small stain-glass windows. Scriptural scenes are transformed into bewildering abstracts of beauty where Mary and Jesus seem to step forward from a creamy wall, yearning to touch paradise. Above the altar another image of Mary….her arms down, spread in supplication and welcome; she looks to the left at her son from this same chapel. The picture is framed by a blue wall – the colour of Mary – gilt gold frame and candlesticks…sun in the cerulean sky. This place is cool, well kept: fresh flowers of whites and pink rest in small copper vases. The altar cloth is a verdant lawn of velvet baize with a single page of scripture displayed.
There’s little to do in this place that has six rows of pews – it could seat 36 people at most other than allow the coolness seep into my soul and skin. This end of Morzine, with its one florist and one boulangerie nestled against the river and wide Swiss-style chalets, mandates solitude, repose, calmness.
I like it.
I had a good surf about the Internet for anything English about this place; some Google Translate threw up some meagre facts so, for this blog, travelswithadiplomat has a small sense of pride at blogging about a place where not many have dared to tread before…
Is this what diplomacy is all about?