Chapels & Churches disappeared
Chapels and Churches disappeared
Peille, a village with a rich history, counts among all these wonders many other chapels and churches, which have now disappeared. Thanks to a lot of research by Pierre Gauberti, we can find a trace of this religious history that defines Peille.
Let’s explore these wonders.
Saint Symphorien Church
With Sainte Marie Church, this chapel was one of the oldest religious monuments of the country. Local lore and relevant archives place the chapel in the Barma neighbourhood, to the east, downhill from the old ramparts. It was covered by the Concas landslide that occurred towards the end of the 16th century.
Up to the day of its destruction, it belonged to the Canons of Saint Ruf.
Saint Antoine Chapel
Following a north-south orientation, this small chapel opened onto the northern side of the square of the same name (since renamed Place Carnot). To the west, it adjoins the communal oven. We believe it was built in the 17th century.
In the old days, on the 17th of January, the patron saints day, a high mass was celebrated, with the entire village in attendance.
In 1676, the minutes recording the canonical visitation tell us that it belonged to the commune and that it was maintained through donations made by the faithful. For half a century, Saint Antoine Chapel remained in a state of disuse. It was then used as a municipal warehouse, and later as a police station for passing troupes.
When the high altar was destroyed, the local baker started using it as his bakery, and then as his storefront. To this day, it remains the only bakery of the village.
Saint Bernard Chapel
Only fifteen minutes from Peille, on the pass also called Saint Bernard, to the north of the village and at the end of Traùpeï pine forest, this chapel stood by the old path leading to Banquettes pass.
Following east-west orientation, it was rebuilt at an unknown date. By right, it belongs to the heirs of Cyprien Barelly who commissioned its construction in 1649.
In 1714, Dom Jean-Baptiste Barelli officiated at mass, and his salary was taken from the proceeds generated by a plot of land with a few olive trees located in the Verna region.
In 1829, only the altar, the side walls and the roof were still in place.
Nowadays, Saint Bernard Chapel is reduced to heap of rubble covered by lush vegetation.
Saint Jean d'Ongran Chapel
This church is located at an altitude of 858 meters, overlooking a Jurassic cliff, on the plateau of the Ongran pass.
Following a traditional south-west orientation, the ruins that remain indicate that it measured ten meters by five and was approximately four meters high. There was a porch on the western side of the edifice that was about two meters wide; the foundations are still visible at ground level.
Outside, to the south, a sturdy load-bearing masonry wall delineated a passage along the side of this church in the small hamlet of Ongran. To the south-east, large areas delimited by small masonry or stone walls formed terraced crops: the door opened under the western porch.
This church also includes the remains of an older construction dating from the 10th century. It was probably built on top of a former pagan temple, as the current layout and fixtures are reminiscent of the 11th or 12th century.
Inside the chapel there is a stele, which was been simply placed there and is probably not in its original location. The top part of the stele (or the altar) has been refashioned in the shape of an ellipse, probably to be used as a holy water font.
Saint Jean des Lacs Chapel
By the side of the former Peille-Monaco path and approximately 100 meters downstream from the lake area, stood a small chapel dedicated to Saint Jean (the evangelist).
There is no document providing an accurate account of its history, but the neighbourhood was known as early as the 11the century, and this may well have been the first place of worship for the small village.
An old masonry wall was discovered on a neighbouring private property; it is hypothesised that it is part of the foundations of Saint Jean des Lacs Chapel, formerly known as Faissé Chapel.
Saint Tibéri Chapel
A little to the east of Saint Martin, at the summit of Mont Agel at an altitude of 1109 meters, stood a chapel dedicated to Saint Tibéry, whom the elders of Peille always used to refer to as San Tibeï.
It was certainly built in the early 15th century by the Canons of Saint Ruf. This chapel, rebuilt several times through efforts of public piety, was finally destroyed by military engineers when they built the fort in 1890.
Sainte Thérèse Chapel
In La Grave de Peille there still stands a modest small chapel with an east-west orientation dedicated to Sainte Thérèse. It is located in the Moulin-Neuf neighbourhood (Mouïnôu), also called Tinéta neighbourhood. It was built towards the end of the 18th century, some time before the great upheaval probably.
In the old days, the clergy of Peille came to celebrate a high mass in honour of the patron saint. Later, the new owner had an additional room erected on the southern slope of the roof, which was contiguous to his own home, thereby slightly changing the aspect of the chapel.
The altar is still in place with its traditional fixtures, as is a painting depicting Teresa of Ávila.
Unfortunately, the building has been transformed; one section has been converted into a hutch and the other into a cellar filled with a variety of wine containers.
Notre Dame de l’Assomption et de Sainte Lucie Chapel
In La Grave de Peille stood a second chapel dedicated to Saint Lucie, also called Madone-des-Grâces or Notre Dame de l’Assomption. It was erected in the Perga neighbourhood (also known as Raperga neighbourhood), alongside the former Peille-Nice public path, on the other side of the Faquin dale.
It was founded by the priest Paul Bottino, who was tasked with celebrating sixteen masses every year at fixed dates, plus another four. It dates from the 18th century but has since been destroyed.
In former times a high mass was celebrated on the 13th of December, Lucie’s saints day. In 1676, the order was issued to provide it with a golden crucifix and altar cards and to fit the door with lock. In those days, the rector was Reverend Pierre Levamis. In 1714, Sainte Lucie Chapel belonged to cleric Pierre Antoine Levamis. In 1743 the order was issued to repair the vault ceiling, and in 1829 the chapel was given a fresh white coating and received a new painting. In 1836, the order was given to fit bars to the chapel windows. The building was left in disrepair and slowly fell into ruin.
The basilica is in ruins, but the walls are still standing and give a clear idea of the size and general shape of the building.
The shape is rather unusual in that it is a parallelogram of 17.25 meters in length by 10 metres in width, externally, with a recess in the south-eastern corner. The church only occupied a part of this surface area, as the basilica featured a corridor with three windows ending on the eastern side in a small room that certainly served as the sacristy.
Another room used as vestibule to the chapel occupied the south-western corner and opened into the chapel and into the vestibule corridor. The south wall provided an exit through a rather unusual opening between the nave and the southern wall; it was probably a service entrance. The apse is interior and shaped like a semi-dome horseshoe.
This old monument, following an east-west orientation was built of small stones, bound together by very strong mortar. The walls indicate that there was a double-sloped roof.
In the archives of donations or restitutions to Saint-Pons, in around 1705, Saint Siméon Chapel is mentioned, Ueïra Chapel is not, but references are made to a property. The estate passes to the Bishop of Nice and then to the Canons of Saint Ruf. They retain ownership until 1654.
But according to archives, it appears that it was a commandry of the Knight Templar under the Bishop of Nice (1303-1316). This basilica, which was akin to a fortified church, probably lost in status in the 15th and 16th century, when the local population gradually left the hamlet to move closer to the village; it was not long before it fell into ruin.
Sainte Augusta or Agathe Chapel
The Sainte Augusta Chapel, located approximately one hour and a half from the village of Peille, stands on the western slope of the shrubby plateau of Baous d’Ueïra, alongside the old path connecting La Grave de Peille to l’Escarène.
Probably built in the mid-17th century, it relied on the Penitents of the Divine Mercy of Peille. In 1676 its roof required repairs, and in 1697, the building was complete and in perfect working order. But after the revolution of 1829, it remained wide open, fell into disrepair, and its painting was lacerated. In 1836, the most urgent repairs were conducted. However, although the chapel still stands with its iron cross on top of the facade, it was visited by vandals who emptied it of its content. The walls have crumbled and are overgrown by brambles.
Sainte Anne Chapel
Sainte Anne Chapel is also very well known, despite being relatively far from the village: it was nestled at the end of a huge valley of olive trees, in the Verna neighbourhood (faïssa Castello), not far from the Peille-les-Clues path.
Founded in the 17th century by Reverend Hyacinthe Fighiera, it had a source of income, and the fees for twelve yearly masses were collected from its revenue.
In 1697, it was recorded to be in a good state and well adorned, except for a cross in the middle of the altar that was in need of a coat of paint.
It was initially the property of the Blanchi family, and then of the former mayor of Peille, Ange Robin, who acquired it along with two neighbouring oil mills.
On the 26th of July, every year, right up to the beginning of the century, Saint Anne saints day was celebrated by a mass followed by a garden party. But towards 1920, during the construction of the train line connecting Nice to Coni, Sainte Anne Chapel was completely destroyed as it stood on its route.