Queyras - Region of Traditions
Queyras, a beautiful unspoilt region of the French Alps, is also home to a rich culture with many local traditions. You'll discover more about this secret Alpine region on our guided walking holiday and our independent tour of the Queyras.
Working with wood is something that belonged to all the inhabitants of the Queyras region of France from the 17th century. Although certain complex pieces of furniture were created only by carpenters, many everyday objects and pieces of furniture were made and decorated by the inhabitants of the Queyras themselves. The spirit of the people of Queyras has in this way been engraved in the simplest or most ornate of daily objects, by inscribing motifs, dates or words. These inscriptions are testimony to the teaching from generation to generation of these skills. It also helps in telling a story about the culture or events of the time, such as religious tendencies.
The house was at the heart of life in the Queyras, because the long harsh winters meant that you were cooped up during several months. Being the principal construction material, wood was found throughout the house, from the walls to the furniture, and from tools to utensils. This shows in a very graphic way how much Queyras life was adapted to its local environment.
Today, Arolla pine, a soft wood, is used in the making of furniture and carvings. The sculptures have an infinite number of designs, symbolising the daily life of the Queyrassins (suns, roses, daisies and watershed motifs…). The villages and landscape of the Queyras is decorated with Carpenters crosses which are decorated with diverse objects made from wood. The houses in some villages (see our separate article on the architecture of the Queyras) are built from the much harder Larch trees.
Another local feature which you'll discover on our guided walking holiday in the Queyras and independent tour of the Queyras is sun dials. The sunshine is an important theme in many Queyras villages with historic buildings adorned with sundials painted on their walls. The favourable climate of the Queyras means that even at altitude this alpine region enjoys 300 days of sunshine per year. The natural pigments used in the sundials are often extracted from ochre coloured sand from the Luberon region. The origin of this popular and original form of art dates back to the 17th century, although they suffered from decline once clocks became popular in the 19th century. Their popularity in the Queyras region of France comes from the relationship of the Queyras with their Italian neighbours in the Piedmont. They were influenced by the Italian schools of art, specialised in religious interior design as well as exterior house paintings, who would cross the cols and propose their services to the people of the Queyras.
In the barely literate France of the 15th century, the Briançon area and Queyras in the French Alps were islands of the culture of writing. Every year the villages recruited a ‘magister’ or schoolmaster for the winter season. Feathers in their hats advertised their services: one feather for reading and writing; two for reading, writing and arithmetic; and three meant Latin as well. As a result, practically all the village men and women could sign their names and had a real taste for writing. This kind of teaching started to disappear from 1840 onwards.
Guided walking holiday - Queyras: Best Kept Secret in the Alps
Independent walking holiday - Tour of Queyras: An Alpine Secret