To visit Talloires on the eastern shores of Lake Annecy is to experience the quiet and simple pleasures of a bygone era. The village remains totally unspoilt by modern architecture with classic Chartreuse style houses making the narrow streets a pleasure to wander through.
The waterfront area of Talloires is superb. Protected by the heights of the Dents de Lanfon and La Tournette, it overlooks the narrowest part of the lake towards Duingt Castle and the ever blue Montagne d’Entrevernes. Here the landscape has inspired numerous painters including Cezanne. Talloires’ own Suzanne Lanse lived to more than 100 and received international acclaim with her paintings of the landscape surrounding her home.
Along the tree lined waterfront a number of prestigious hotels and restaurants have all enhanced the qualities of Talloires. Hotel de L’Abbaye, Le Cottage and the world famous Auberge du Pere Bise have all contributed to Talloires’ now celebrated gourmet reputation.
Talloires’ Hotel de L’Abbaye in fact stands on the site of a former chapel which once served as a shelter for the Monk Errants who roamed the region preaching the news of the Christian civilisation. Over the years they established a monastic foundation here which greatly influenced the culture and prosperity of Talloires.
The monastery’s first Prior was Germain who later retired to live in a cave in cliffs above the village. This was in sympathy with the final years of St Benoit, the founder of the Benedictine order who also spent his final years in solitude in a cave.
Germain spent 40 years in the cave above Talloires and died almost 100 years old. The cave still exists, barely a few feet deep and above it the people of Talloires have built the Chapel of St Germain. Commanding one of the most magnificent views of Lake Annecy it is floodlit at night and provides a comforting focal point above the village.
One of the fundamental rules of the Abbaye was hospitality and every day for centuries, food and alms were given to the poor and needy from the gates of the Priory, later named the Porte de l’Aumone. In addition a free education was given to the children of the village.
The villagers of Talloires became entirely dependent on the Abbaye. They were paid good wages and experienced a high standard of living. Towards the end of the 17th Century most of their income came from the surrounding Abbaye vineyards. In fact, records indicate that wine flowed freely in the Abbaye as daily rations were consumed from goblets each holding one litre. In addition to weekly rations of six pounds of cheese per monk there were also generous quantities of meat and bread. During Lent however, meat and cheese were forbidden (except on Sunday) when each monk had to be content with six large apple fritters, three apples and six walnuts.
The Abbaye’s generous lifestyle gathered momentum but a slackening of the monastic rule considerably harmed its hitherto exemplary reputation. Following two disastrous fires, the decline of the Abbaye’s popularity and respect had begun. In 1787 under a court order the doors were closed to new members and the existing monks were allowed to stay for the rest of their lives. This was not good news for the people of Talloires whose livelihood had largely been maintained by the Abbaye and its estate.
One morning in June 1793 the seven remaining monks were given orders to quit by the Revolutionary Council of Talloires and on 30th June the entire population of the village gathered under the chestnut trees on the waterfront, lit a huge bonfire and consumed the wine left behind by the monks. The fire burned for three days, consuming many of the priceless treasures the monastery had accumulated over the years. The residents were now masters of their own property. Very little survived, even the small church in the grounds of the Abbaye was destroyed and the stones used by the villagers to repair their homes.
The bells of the church were crashed to the ground but refused to be broken. Eventually they were manouvered on two tree trunks and slid into the lake. There they rest to this day where, so local folklore will have you believe, they can still be heard ringing from their watery grave on certain nights.
The Abbaye has been rebuilt and restored and is now a most elegant hotel, opening in 1861 and advertising itself as the first hotel on the shores of Lake Annecy. The Priory is now a seminar centre for Tufts University, its superb setting now appreciated by students from all over the world.
The peace surrounding Talloires has only been punctuated by the experiences of World War 11 when the villagers supported the cause with true patriotism and every man of arms bearing age joined the resistance movement.
On receiving a signal they would climb the steep slopes above the village through hours of darkness to retrieve supplies and arms dropped by British aircraft. It was from Talloires that a German column set out to destroy the Maquis of neighbouring Les Glièrs. In the ensuing fight 400 heroic Maquisards lost their lives. Roger Astier, the chief of the Talloires resistance was arrested and deported to the notorious ‘Camp of Death’ at Mathausen, from where he did not return. His fellow members later erected a monument of him in the small garden adjoining the Marie where he is remembered alongside Talloire’s famous resident and pioneering chemist, Claude-Louis Berthellot (1748 – 1822) who discovered ammonia and gave the world bleach.
Over the years Talloires has been visited and admired by the rich and famous, painted by Cezanne and above all enjoyed by every day folk from all nations who have enjoyed its magnificent setting.
Winston Churchill once described Talloires as “the most beautiful place on earth” but perhaps the most eloquent description of the village comes from Jean-Jacques Rosseau the Swiss/French philosopher (1712 – 1778) who simply said of Talloires, “It is here that I have passed the short but peaceful moments which allow me to say, I have been happy, I have lived”.
Annecy Canal Walk
Hillside Homes Overlooking Lake Annecy
Duingt Castle and Mountains, Lake Annecy
Talloires, Classic Power Boats visit the Waterfront
Parascending above the Village
The Priory, now Tufts University
Priory, Porte de la'Aumone
External Staircase, Priory Courtyard