The Val d'Argent

A religious patchwork

The Chaînes Church, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines  © José Antenat

The Chaînes Church, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines © José Antenat


Located in the heart of the Vosges mountains, the Val d'Argent ('Silver valley') or the valley of St. Marie-aux-Mines is known for its silver mines (10th -20th century) and its textile industry (18th - 20th century). Over the 16th century, these economic activities, along with the Ribeaupierre's spirit of tolerance, encouraged many communities from the Reformation and from different traditions to settle down in the area. The Lutherans, the French and German Reformed Protestants, the Amish and the Mennonites lived together with a spirit of tolerance. Through this tour, you'll discover the incredible religious patchworks of the valley.


Start your tour by visiting the simultaneous church of St. Pierre-sur-l’Hâte, 3.5 km south-west of the centre of St. Marie aux Mines. The church was first mentioned in the 12th century and was extended at the beginning of the 16th century. First Catholic, it was given to the Protestants in 1561 by the Lords of Ribeaupierre. In 1685, Louis XIV gave the chancel to the Catholics, whereas the Lutheran and Reformed Protestants shared the nave. The Protestants and Catholics laid out their part of the church according to their own doctrine – keeping or taking away the stained glass windows. This simultaneous place of worship is one of the only ones in Alsace to host Catholic, Reformed and Lutheran denominations. It is also the miners' place of burial and their graves may be seen in the narthex or in the graveyard around the church.
By driving up the rue Saint Louis, you'll reach the centre of St. Marie aux Mines where you can park your vehicle on the place Laure Diebold Mutschler.


Walk up the rue Saint Louis to the Chaines church. During the 16th century, the Lutheran miners had their own church in the lower part of the town. Burnt down in 1754 then rebuilt in 1756, the church called 'Sur le Pré' became too small due to the town's demographic and industrial growth in the 19th century. A Lutheran church called 'Eglise des Chaînes' was thus built in 1854, from the project of Eugène Petit, an architect from Strasbourg. It is named after the chains marking the square's boundary. As for the 'Sur-le-Pré' church, it was demolished in 1881 in order to extend the town's railway station.


To get to the next stage of your tour, walk down the rue Saint Louis to the Reformed church ('Temple réformé'). In the 16th century, the Lutherans and the Reformed Protestants didn't always live together easily. In 1561, the Lutherans used the 'Sur-le-Pré' church, whereas the Reformed Protestants had the Saint-Pierre-sur-l’Hâte church. However, the latter one was far away from the town centre, so the Reformed Protestants were permitted to build a 'meeting hall' in 1634, without a steeple in order not to arouse suspicion from the Habsbourgs, the Ribeaupierre's liege lords. The church is one of the rare examples of Reformed architecture that remained after the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685, when many Protestant churches were destroyed throughout France. The architecture inside the church was designed following Calvin’s precepts which focussed on the reading of and listening to the Bible. The steeple and the organ were added in the 19th century.


Those who would like to walk a bit further on will discover the Fertrupt chapel, the miners' community place of worship, about a mile away from the Reformed church up the chemin de la chapelle de Fertrupt. It dates from the 16th century and has kept the remains from the Sur-le-Pré church. The hammer and chisel above the entrance testify to the presence of miners. Built in a Renaissance style, the chapel was renovated in 1986.



A few kilometres to the west, you'll find the last stage of your tour. This chapel, close to Sainte-Croix-Aux-Mines, served the miners’ community of Saint-Blaise. The initial church dates from the 11th or the 13th century. It was extended in the 16th century, after the Lutheran miners’ arrival, who made it an annexe to the Sur-le-Pré church. When the 'Eglise des Chaînes' was opened, the chapel lost its importance and gradually failed to be looked after. Today it is no longer us.


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