A bit of the Ayas story









Il castello di Verres

At the entrance to the Ayas Valley, tourists are struck by the image of Verres Castle which is the most representative defensive fort of Challant Counts. It was built in 1390 by Ibleto of Challant will. The impressive structure of this castle has no comparison in any other medieval building in the Aosta Valley.

il castello di Graines

Along Ayas Valley road, in brusson, it is possible to admire the ruins of another castle that belonged to Challant Counts: Graines Castle, which was the administrative and summer residence of the family.  







Il "quattro" simbolo dell'insediamento Walser, rinvenuto sovente sui muri e sugli architravi delle loro costruzioni


It is now understood that in 800-900 a.C. the Germanic population of the alemanns settled in the upper part of the vallais, where they grouped together and gave birth to what became known as the great walser community.

Poverty of the lands situated in the upper rhone valley and the increase in population, forced some groups of people from the vallais (WALLISER, later contracted into Walser) to leave and colonized unexploited lands. From 1200-1300 a.C. they set off once more. Contrary to the previous en masse migrations, this time they moved in small groups along the highest alpine valleys and settled in the most impractical areas discarded by the locals.

As soon as the new settlement improved and the dried lands bore the first fruits, new groups arrived. gradually, in different waves, the Walser population spread all over the Alps, from the Aosta Valley to Vorarlberg and the western limits of Austria. The areas where they established themselves were situated in the highest regions of the Alps, abandoned by previous populations who were unable to exploit the land and settled in the lower part of the valleys.

Walser people were forced to migrate for economic reasons. However, we cannot ignore their charcteristics of free men, loving adventure and conquest. Their lives in inhospitable lands were not easy. The only resorts were breeding and farming mountain pastures to feed animals during the long winter. They were compelled to trade with local neighbours to get what they were unable to produce by themselves. Nevertheless, the Walser population progressed and spread. Their presence was welcome also by the lords who owned the lands, since they received a high rent. Moreover the walser people were experts on arms and could grant the lord a reliable base for recruiting militia.

As far as the Val d’ossola, Val Sesia and Aosta Valleys are concerned, the Walser migrations can be summarised as follows:
- through the gries pass they went down in the upper Valle del Toce
- From the Sempione pass they went down simplon and grondo
- through  the Monte Moro pass they founded Macugnaga
- Ayas and Gressoney were founded by populations coming from Colle del Teodulo. According to other versions  -more fanciful than historical-   Walsers crossed the Colle Del Lys whilst it was not covered with snow. Then glaciation made it impossible to follow such a path and the walser people were prevented from communicating with their countries of origin. this created the legend of the lost valley ( "das Verlorne thal") that was thought to be beyond Mont Rose. The legend tells that the valley was rich in pastures for cattle and thick forests with a lot of wild animals.

- the colonies of Alagna, Riva Valdobbia, Rima, Rimella were founded by Walsers from Gressoney (through the Col d’Olen) and from Macugnaga (through the Passo del Turlo).
Walser Expansion seems to have reached its height between 1400- 1500.

movimento del popolamento walser

in the Ayas valley, there are a lot of signs testifying to walser presence: in architecture, language, villages naming and the traditional ayas dress.

Here, at the head of champoluc, they founded “le canton des Allemands (The German Corner), a settlement of about 500 people.

The place known today as St. Jacques was the centre of this settlement, so that the complete name at that time was Saint Jacques des allemands (Saint Jacques of Germans).

The interest of the walser people to this land is found in the richness of a stone which is particularly malleable (known as “pera doutsa”, mild stone) that was used to produce domestic pans.

In addition to the colonisation of the central valley, Walsers also Founded villages at higher altitudes, between 1900 and 2075 metres (For instance, Mascognaz, cuneaz and crest). Among them, the highest is Resy.

In spite of the altitude, these settlements were inhabited all year long and were amongst the Highest Permanent inhabited villages in Europe.


  Splendido rascard, perfettamente conservato, a Resy    L'abitato di Resy visto da Saint Jacques 

Resy visto da Tzere    Rascard a Resy







Resy hermit


A shepherd hermit was living in a hut in the forest. He used to eat berries and drink milk, talk with his sheep and felt that the Lord was close to him. He would have liked to know how to pray with appropriate words as priests did, but nobody had ever taught him.

  He made himself a rosary with a rope by tying knots. He used to run them through his hands just as he saw the faithful used to do in the church.

  One day, while he was praying with the rosary, a vagrant noticed him and when he realized the hermit wasn’t able to recite the rosary, he decided to teach him. As a joke, he suggested the hermit should repeat “rope knot” at anytime his hands encountered a knot in the rope.

  Of course, the hermit told this story down in the village. The rumour spread around and the Ayas parish priest decided to summon the hermit in order to explain to him how irreverent his way of reciting the rosary was.

  The good man obeyed and went down to the village. Someone told him to wait for the parish priest in the sacristy. There, in front of Saints paintings, the holy man felt the need to recite the rosary.

  He threw the cloak down on a sunray that was entering the room from a small window, took out the rosary from his pocket and while shelling the knots, he repeated the formula that was taught him.

  The parish priest entered the room and when he saw the cloak  hanged on the luminous ray, He dropped on his knees to exalt the glory of the Lord.