**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Art In The Valley Of Saas
by [?]

Art In The Valley Of Saas{11}

Having been told by Mr. Fortescue, of the British Museum, that there were some chapels at Saas-Fee which bore analogy to those at Varallo, described in my book “Ex Voto,” {12} I went to Saas during this last summer, and venture now to lay my conclusions before the reader.

The chapels are fifteen in number, and lead up to a larger and singularly graceful one, rather more than half-way between Saas and Saas-Fee. This is commonly but wrongly called the chapel of St. Joseph, for it is dedicated to the Virgin, and its situation is of such extreme beauty–the great Fee glaciers showing through the open portico–that it is in itself worth a pilgrimage. It is surrounded by noble larches and overhung by rock; in front of the portico there is a small open space covered with grass, and a huge larch, the stem of which is girt by a rude stone seat. The portico itself contains seats for worshippers, and a pulpit from which the preacher’s voice can reach the many who must stand outside. The walls of the inner chapel are hung with votive pictures, some of them very quaint and pleasing, and not overweighted by those qualities that are usually dubbed by the name of artistic merit. Innumerable wooden and waxen representations of arms, legs, eyes, ears and babies tell of the cures that have been effected during two centuries of devotion, and can hardly fail to awaken a kindly sympathy with the long dead and forgotten folks who placed them where they are.

The main interest, however, despite the extreme loveliness of the St. Mary’s Chapel, centres rather in the small and outwardly unimportant oratories (if they should be so called) that lead up to it. These begin immediately with the ascent from the level ground on which the village of Saas-im-Grund is placed, and contain scenes in the history of the Redemption, represented by rude but spirited wooden figures, each about two feet high, painted, gilt, and rendered as life-like in all respects as circumstances would permit. The figures have suffered a good deal from neglect, and are still not a little misplaced. With the assistance, however, of the Rev. E. J. Selwyn, English Chaplain at Saas-im-Grund, I have been able to replace many of them in their original positions, as indicated by the parts of the figures that are left rough-hewn and unpainted. They vary a good deal in interest, and can be easily sneered at by those who make a trade of sneering. Those, on the other hand, who remain unsophisticated by overmuch art-culture will find them full of character in spite of not a little rudeness of execution, and will be surprised at coming across such works in a place so remote from any art- centre as Saas must have been at the time these chapels were made. It will be my business therefore to throw what light I can upon the questions how they came to be made at all, and who was the artist who designed them.

The only documentary evidence consists in a chronicle of the valley of Saas written in the early years of this century by the Rev. Peter Jos. Ruppen, and published at Sion in 1851. This work makes frequent reference to a manuscript by the Rev. Peter Joseph Clemens Lommatter, cure of Saas-Fee from 1738 to 1751, which has unfortunately been lost, so that we have no means of knowing how closely it was adhered to. The Rev. Jos. Ant. Ruppen, the present excellent cure of Saas-im-Grund, assures me that there is no reference to the Saas-Fee oratories in the “Actes de l’Eglise” at Saas, which I understand go a long way back; but I have not seen these myself. Practically, then, we have no more documentary evidence than is to be found in the published chronicle above referred to.