Heritage: Bionaz

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Place Moulin Dam

Architecture  -  Bionaz

The upper Bionaz valley’s landscape changed between 1961 and 1965 due to the construction of the enormous Place Moulin dam. The dam create Lake Prarayer, an artificial basin nestled between the mountains. In the background you can see le Petites and les Grandes Murailles with their impressive glaciers.

This is the largest water basin in the region and one of the largest dams in Europe. Just a quick look at the structure’s statistics gives an idea of its phenomenal aspect:

  • the dam is 155 metres high and 678 metres long
  • maximum dam thickness at the base is 47 metres thinning to 6 metres thick at the top
  • 1,510,000 cubic metres of cement were used to build the dam
  • the maximum level reached by water is 1,969 m a.s.l.
  • 105 million cubic metre is the dam capacity.

The dam exterior is always open to the public, but upon reservation it is possible to enjoy a guided tour inside in the period from May to September. The dam can be inspected on several levels that lower even under the lake waters and are connected by stairs and an elevator. Numerous machines and equipment tied to dam operations and safety controls are to be found inside.

Parish church of Santa Margherita

Churches and shrines  -  Bionaz

Situated in the heart of the inhabited centre of Bionaz, the church was built in 1694, as we see from the writing sculpted on the southern edge, enlarging the primitive chapel dating from 1617, which had already become the parish church in 1640. The bell tower also dates back to the end of the 17th century and was restored in 1964.

- on the facade and in the presbytery, frescoes and paintings by the Genovese painter Ettore Mazzini, buried in the cemetery of Bionaz
- the main altar, in a Baroque style, in partially gilded wood
- the left hand altar, from the 18th century, a beautiful example of the Baroque style of Valle d’Aosta, with a statue of the Madonna with child dating back to the 17th century, surrounded by medallions showing the mysteries of the Rosary, restored in 1990.
- in the small museum-window display inside the church there is a collection of certain objects of sacred art including a chasuble from the 17th century which belonged to the chapel of La Lechère. It was a gift from the archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Leclerc de Juigné, who, having escaped from his diocese during the era of the French revolution, had crossed Col Collon to take refuge in Bionaz.