Samoens used to be world famous for its stone masons, who exported their know-how to building sites all over the planet.Read more
The tradition of stonework has made its mark on the Upper Giffre valley, with its countless limestone quarries (hardness coefficient 13). The locals turned to stone masonry to supplement their income from agriculture.
In 1659, there were so many "frahans" (the local term for stone masons) in Samoens, and their skills were so renowned, that they formed a very famous brotherhood, which undertook philanthropic actions, cared for the sick and trained young apprentices in its own school with a comprehensive library.
The members of the Samoens society of stone masons were commissioned to work on some of the greatest projects of the period: Vauban used them to build his fortifications, Napoleon called on them to build the canals in Saint Quentin, Givors and much further afield in Poland and Louisiana.
They spoke in their own dialect - "mourmé" - so that no-one else could understand them. The architecture of the village still bears testimony to their immense talent.
A number of stonemasons continue the tradition today in Samoens and the brotherhood has become a cultural association, "La Société des Maçons", which organises guided tours of the local heritage in the summer and the winter.
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