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The worksite of la Valla en Gier



The state of the works - February 2013

27/02/2013: France - Photo gallery
The La Valla worksite

Starting around mid-September, the worksite of La Valla is moving according to the rhythm planned. The photos will help you get an idea of the progress of the works at the beginning of this month of February. Visitors to the Rome Marist website have already had a glimpse of the worksite, thanks to Joan Puig Pey on the occasion of Christmas.

It is good, for a start, to recall which are the parts affected by the renovations.

- the Bonner house (or cradle of the Institute) : the cellar, ground floor, and the two upper floors ;

- the construction of 1822, made by Fr Champagnat : ground floor and the two upper floors ;

- and also the ground floor under the chapel, consisting of the former yellow room and two adjacent cellars.

Up to today, the works have essentially been the digging up of the floors of all the rooms of the ground floor. At La Valla also, the house is built on the rock ! It is hard work with the pneumatic drill and the pick, despite the presence of numerous trickles of water seeping from the hill. How much water will need to be channelled before relaying the floors !

Important work also at the level of the openings : all the old doors and windows have been closed, enlarged or remade, for some in freestone ; new ones have been created, in particular on the 1st floor, a large vertical bay window overlooking the valley.

This work supposes a long labour of shoring up. The masons have been surprised to discover the type of construction : stones and earth by way of « binding ». But the house has stood up well up to today, thanks in particular to a good construction technique and the thickness of the walls. For the moment, with all the openings redone, the house rather resembles a Gruyère cheese which needs better consolidation.

Another important work has been the demolition of the stairways and corridors linking the  Bonner house and the chapel building. The two buildings at present are quite distinct. In place, a slab of concrete has been poured ;  below will be the corridor which leads to the new entrance to the house.

All the concrete slabs between the floors have already been made. This allows a more precise  vision of the new arrangements. Only the Champagnat room, where the table of the first community is, will keep the same configuration and benefit from special treatment, at the level of the interior roughcast, the ceiling, the freestone window encasements ; all that to preserve an ancient and rustic character.

In a few days, the demolition of all the roofing will begin. This is a major work which means, first of all, the construction over the present roof of a provisional one with a metallic structure to allow work under shelter during inclement weather, rain and snow especially, and also to prevent the walls from suffering too much damage !

The team of masons

As for the construction of l’Hermitage, in 1824, there are the « professional masons » and the workers. One remembers that only Marcellin Champagnat had permission to work alongside the professional masons. At la Valla, the chief is Christophe, stonecutter by trade and journeyman. Those are his qualifications. Three young men in their twenties, Jérémy and Matthieu, twin brothers, and Dorian  assist his as experienced masons. Three others, Valentin, Abdel and Amar, are engaged in the work of digging, clearing and the preparation of the materials ; hard work !

Despite the difficulties of the work and the weather conditions (sometimes a temperature of – 8° Celsius), all form a good team with whom the Brothers of the community maintain a relationship marked by simplicity and cordiality.

They have been told about the history of this house and the project of renovation they are engaged in carrying out. There is no doubt that the work has a special meaning for each of them, the latest links in a long chain of builders. Witnessing the companionship in work which exists between the « Chef » and the young masons, a companionship formed by the  transmission of knowledge, mutual aid and complicity, one can quite easily imagine how  Marcellin himself lived with his first companions !

Those in charge of the worksite and the renovation project of the « cradle of the Institute ».

The direction of the building site has been confided to the same team of architects as that of l’Hermitage : Joan Puig Pey, from Catalonia, Stéphane Roulleau and Yves Poncet of Lyon. Every Thursday, they come for a meeting at the worksite, together with those responsible for the various enterprises and groups of tradesmen, as well as Brothers Héribert Pujolas and Michel Morel, representing the  « owners ».

The project was considered and the plan approved by an International Commission composed of Brothers Joe Mc Kee, Victor Preciado and Antoine Kazindu, for the General Council, and Mme Catherine Demougin and Brothers Pere Ferré and Benito Arbuès for the Province of l’Hermitage. This Commission in addition has asked a little team of Brothers close to the Marist places, Benito Arbuès, Jean Pierre Destombes, Xavier Barcelo and Michel Morel to reflect on the scenography and various practical points relating to the arrangement of the future areas.

The worksite is making normal progress. All should be ready for the beginning of September, the opening date of the General Conference, which will be held at the Hermitage.

Like Marcellin Champagnat, we ceaselessly repeat :

«  If the Lord does not build the house, the builders work in vain ».


Brother Michel Morel

The La Valla worksite

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