Samoens used to be world famous for its stone masons, who exported their know-how to building sites all over the world.
The tradition of stonework has made its mark on the Upper Giffre valley, with its countless limestone quarries (hardness coefficient 13). The locals turned to stone masonry to supplement their income from agriculture.The architecture of the village still bears testimony to their immense talent.
In 1659, there were so many "frahans" (the local term for stone masons) in Samoens, and their skills were so renowned, that they formed a very famous brotherhood, which undertook philanthropic actions, cared for the sick and trained young apprentices in its own school with a comprehensive library.
The members of the Samoens society of stone masons were commissioned to work on some of the greatest projects of the period: Vauban used them to build his fortifications, Napoleon called on them to build the canals at Saint Quentin and they also undertook works in Givors, as well as much further afield in Poland and Louisiana.
They spoke in their own dialect - "mourmé" - so that no-one else could understand them.
A number of stonemasons continue the tradition today in Samoens and the brotherhood has become a cultural association, "La Société des Maçons", which organises guided tours of the town both in summer and winter.
As part of the 34th European Heritage Days, come and take part in this guided tour of the history and architectural heritage of the...