Aix-les-Bains, Lac du Bourget, Chanaz and Bugey Part 1

LINKS to other pages in the Annecy and Mont Blanc website and to the Travelling Days series:

1 : Introduction and Index
2 : Setting Out
3 : Beaune
4 : Annecy
5 : Mont Blanc and Mer de Glace
6 : Aix-les-Bains and Lac du Bourget
7 : Homeward Bound
8 : Paris


The Lac du Bourget ("Lake of Le Bourget") is of glacial origin and is the largest and deepest lake in France. The volume of water of the lake is equivalent to the annual consumption of drinking water in France. It is fed by the river Leysse and other small rivers, and drains to the river Rhône through the artificial canal de Savières. The most important town on its shore is Aix-les-Bains.

Our coach takes us from Annecy to the Grand Port of Aix-les-Bains situated beside the Lac du Bourget(left and below).


The small boat marina at the Grand Port (right).


   A pleasant lakeside walk leads to the main port area (left and below).


The shopping and restaurant precinct at the Grand Port. It is from Grand Port that our boat trip starts (right).............


Hautecombe Abbey (Latin Altacumba, Altæcumbæum) is a former Cistercian monastery and later a Benedictine monastery. For centuries it was the burial place of the members of the House of Savoy. It is visited by 150,000 tourists yearly. (right and below).


The origins of Hautecombe lie in a religious community which was founded about 1101 in a narrow valley (or combe) near Lake Bourget by hermits from Aulps on Lake Geneva. In about 1125 it was transferred to a site on the north-western shore of the lake under Mont du Chat, which had been granted to it by Amadeus, Count of Savoy, who is named as the founder; and shortly afterwards it accepted the Cistercian Rule from Clairvaux.

The first abbot was Amadeus de Haute-Rive, afterwards Bishop of Lausanne. Two daughter-houses were founded from Hautecombe at an early date: Fossanova Abbey (afterwards called For Appio), in the diocese of Terracina in Italy, in 1135, and San Angelo de Petra, close to Constantinople, in 1214.


It has sometimes been claimed, but as often disputed, that Pope Celestine IV and Pope Nicholas III were monks at Hautecombe.

Apart from its exceptionally beautiful location, the chief interest of Hautecombe is that it was for centuries the burial-place of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy. Count Humbert III, known as "Blessed", and his wife Anne were interred there in the latter part of the 12th century.

About a century later Boniface of Savoy, Archbishop of Canterbury (1245-1270), son of Count Thomas I of Savoy, was buried in the sanctuary of the abbey church. He had come out from England with King Edward I to accompany him in a crusade, but died at the castle of St. Helena in Savoy.

The abbot Anthony of Savoy, a son of Charles Emmanuel I, was also buried there in 1673.

The abbey was restored (in a debased style) by one of the dukes about 1750, but it was secularized and sold in 1792, when the French entered Savoy, and was turned into a china-factory.

King Charles Felix of Sardinia purchased the ruins in 1824, had the church re-constructed by the Piedmontese architect Ernest Melano in an exuberant Gothic-Romantic style, and restored it to the Cistercian Order. He and his queen, Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, are buried in the Belley chapel, which forms a kind of vestibule to the church. .


The boathouse (above). The entire complex viewed fron Lac du Bourget (left).


The Chateau de Chatillon (right and below) date from the 11th century. The castle has undergone several revisions and enlargements both in 1537 by Louis de Seyssel and also during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is now a private property.



A more modern chateau near the foot of the lake (right and below).


The village of Conjux (right).


Looking back up the lake to the misty French Alps (left).