Remains from the Gallo-Roman period are on display at the Musée Savoisien. They consist of fragments of a statue and a bronze caduceus which appears to confirm the importance of the cult of Mercury in the territory of the Allobroges.
The Middle Ages
Lémenc’s Carolinigian crypt holds many mysteries for archaeologists: was it a baptistry, a martyrium…? The Castle of the Dukes of Savoy is a major city landmark. Built in the 14th century, it was embellished over the centuries by the princes of Savoy. It was Amédée VIII, the first Duke of Savoy, who added the Saint-Chapelle, a jewel of Flamboyant Gothic architecture. It became famous thanks to the Holy Shroud which was stored there in the 16th century. There are also fine examples of Medieval civil architecture. Some shops in the Rue Trésorerie and the Rue Basse-du-Château still have their stone benches and wooden shutters. One of Chambéry’s special features are its “ allées ”, a series of alleyways, most of them covered, which run beneath and behind the houses. Several religious orders established themselves in the town and played an important part in community life. The Franciscan monastery hosted city council meetings whilst the Senate held sessions in the Dominican convent. Amédée VIII laid the first stone of the Chapel of the Friars Minor of Saint Francis, which is now the cathedral. The buildings of what is now the only fully preserved Medieval monastery in France house the collections of the Musée Savoisien.
Now the capital of the Duchy of Savoy, Chambéry experienced its heyday during the Renaissance. As a result, the city now boasts a large number of 15th and 16th century private mansions, which combine Gothic architecture with Renaissance elements. These include the Hôtel Lambert de la Croix, whose portico is adorned with a red frieze, or the Hôtel de la Pérouse, with its spiral staircase encased in a polygonal tower.
The 17th and 18th centuries
After the capital was transferred to Turin in around 1560, building styles were influenced by Piedmontese architecture. The Hôtel des Marches and the Hôtel de Bellegarde in the Rue Croix d’Or, and the Hôtel Montfalcon in the Place du Château, acquired beautiful façades: windows topped with curved or triangular pediments, sculpted decorations featuring garlands of fruit or draperies…The Hôtel de Castagnery has delicately crafted ironwork in the form of beautiful grilles around the courtyard. Similarly, the Church of Notre-Dame, originally the chapel of the Jesuit College, along with the façade of the castle chapel, which was rebuilt in the 17th century, reflect the importance of Baroque art in Savoy.
The 19th century
Born in Chambéry in 1751, General Count de Boigne earned glory and fame in India. On his return to his home town, the immensely rich benefactor decided to construct a wide arterial road; well planned and lined with porticos, it cut right through the old part of the city. In 1838, the famous Elephant fountain was built in his honour. With its eclectic façade and abundant decoration, its Italianate auditorium and front curtain depicting “Orpheus’ Descent to the Underworld”, the Charles-Dullin theatre is truly remarkable. The Curial infantry barracks, on which construction began in 1804, stands on the site of the former Ursuline convent: it is one of a very small number of preserved Napoleonic era barracks in France. In 1848, the Sardinian government ordered the construction of the Palais de Justice as a home for the venerable Senate of Savoy. The work was completed after Savoy was annexed to France in 1860. A beautiful Doric colonnade, cornices and pediments adorn its façade, which is now showcased as part of the city’s “light plan”.
The 20th century
Built in 1906 as a depot and repair shop for locomotives, the SNCF roundhouse is an impressive metal construction (32 metres high and 108 metres in diameter). The André-Malraux cultural centre opened its doors in the 1980s, alongside the former Curial barracks, which has now been converted into an administrative, commercial and cultural centre. Designed by the architect Mario Botta, it features a decorative effect created by alternating bands of grey marble and raw concrete. Adjoining the Espace Malraux, the Jean-Jacques-Rousseau media centre, designed by the architect Aurélio Galfetti, is the most recent addition to this staunchly contemporary quarter.
Chambéry century by century
Relive all this history as you walk around the city