Art is a central part of the culture of any area. It can be seen all around, in particular in the architecture of the towns and villages. The style of art in Morzine tells some of the story of the area and how it came to be the town it is today.
Martin Luther brought about the beginning of the reformation in the year 1517, starting a cultural revolution in art, religion and politics. It also led to military conflicts throughout Europe. One of Martin Lutherís key criticisms of Rome and the Catholic church was the extravagant art to be found in churches, which he saw as a decadent display of wealth and a sign of worshipping false idols. As a result the Catholic church introduced a period of austerity with the displays of wealth stripped away. However, by the end of the sixteenth century the Catholic church was feeling more confident and celebrating a revival. This was echoed in the new style of art - known as Baroque - that celebrated the Catholic faith with bright and bold religious imagery. The idea was to project power, control and triumph. The art became increasingly extravagant and dramatic.
Savoyard Baroque was a regional style of the Baroque movement, drawing influence from neighbouring Italian states, France, Spain and the German Empire.
In 1536 the Duchy of Savoie was occupied by protestant Bernese troops. Following treaties in 1564 in Evian and 1569 in Thonon the Protestant claim to Savoy was withdrawn and the troops left the area. At this time the Baroque movement was on the rise, as a celebration of the return of Catholicism. The Baroque style in Savoie was influenced by the geographical conditions of the area as well as the traditional artisan industries, such as the masons, painters, carpenters and sculptors.
Baroque in Morzine
The Baroque movement has influenced the style of architecture in Alpine villages and Morzine is no exception. The style can be seen in many of the traditional buildings around the town. The Facim Foundation, with the Savoie General Council, has set up a circuit featuring eighty buildings in the Baroque style that have some cultural or historical significance. In Morzine the Church Of Saint Mary Magdalene has been featured on this circuit due to the Baroque style decoration within.
Vuarent hired Gerard Bremont to oversee the development of the town. He hired ambitious,visionary young architects Jacques Labro, Jean-Jacques Orzoni and Jean-Marc Roques to design the new village. At a time when many purpose built resorts in the Alps were being built to resemble tower blocks, with no thought for integrating with the surroundings, the Avoriaz design team came up with a revolutionary design. They drew on different artistic styles - Contemporary, Avant Garde, Fantasy and, as a nod to the artistic history of the area, Baroque. A new era was beginning allowing architects to work more as artists and have a greater freedom of expression. The architects strove to work with their environment, with buildings designed to resemble the mountains around them and to blend in with them, whilst also using sharp angles in a way that had not been seen before. This was also practical as it helped the snow to fall off the roofs! The buildings were also covered with wooden tiles to help blend in. The team of architects have all won awards for their work, such as the Academie des Beaux Arts, the Equerre D'Argent and the silver medal from the Architectural Academie. In 2003 the French Minister of Culture awarded Avoriaz a prize for being one of the great cultural achievements of the 20th Century.