Saint- Gervais- les- Bains is a municipality with 5646 inhabitants (as of 1 January 2011) in the French Alps in the Haute-Savoie department in the Rhône -Alpes. It is the capital of the eponymous canton of Saint- Gervais- les- Bains and is located at the point where the Montjoie- high valley flows with the river Bonnant in the valley of the Arve, between the towns of Chamonix and Geneva.

In the municipality there is a significant part of the Mont- Blanc massif, which is served by Saint- Gervais via the gear train Tramway du Mont- Blanc up to 2386 m altitude. In addition, the spa town of Saint- Gervais has a health spa and is part of the ski area Evasion Mont- Blanc. Thus, the place is now dominated by tourism especially.

  • 2.1 Origin of the name
  • 2.2 antiquity
  • 2.3 Middle Ages
  • 2.4 baroque period
  • 2.5 Modern Times 2.5.1 Thermal
  • 2.5.2 Disaster of 1892
  • 2.5.3 rail link of 1898
  • 2.5.4 Winter Sports
  • 2.5.5 Tour de France
  • 2.5.6 bypass 2012
  • 3.1 Town twinning
  • 4.1 Winter Sports
  • 4.2 power plants
  • 4.3 traffic 4.3.1 roads
  • 4.3.2 Railway


The town of Saint- Gervais- Les- Bains is located at 900 m in the Montjoie valley on both sides of a canyon of the river Bonnant, a tributary of the Arve. The municipality also include Saint -Nicolas de Véroce and part of the resort Le Fayet. Saint -Nicolas de Véroce located up the valley and was until December 29, 1973, a separate municipality. Le Fayet is a few hundred meters deep in the valley of the Arve and has motorway access and SNCF train station. Part of Le Fayet already belongs to the neighboring village of Passy. The entrance to the Montjoie valley between Le Fayet and St Gervais is characterized by a steep increase of several hundred meters, while the high valley above Saint- Gervais only gently rises. On its flanks the valley is severely limited by the Mont d' Arbois in the West and especially the Mont- Blanc massif on the east side. The tree line is around 2000 m and varies greatly due to both the rugged geography as well as by human activities ( alpine, ski slopes).

The municipality of Saint- Gervais- Les- Bains also includes the summits of Mont Blanc as an exclave in the municipality of Chamonix. The exact course of the border between France and Italy on the Mont- Blanc is not defined under international law and is the subject of a territorial dispute, ie there are different points of view, whether now owned the entire summit region or only a comma to the top half of French Saint- Gervais, and thus France.

The difference in height in the municipality of Saint- Gervais, of 580 m (Le Fayet ) to 4807 m ( summit of Mont Blanc) is unique among the municipalities of France.

Structure of the community

At Saint- Gervais next to the village itself and the already mentioned villages of Le Fayet and Saint -Nicolas include numerous settlements and farmsteads. Both the existing already in the Middle Ages decentralized distribution of farms and the construction of apartments in panoramic positions have contributed to a strong urban sprawl of the municipal territory.

  • In the Arve Valley and on the edge of the Arve Valley sat facing Mont d' Arbois are the village of Le Fayet and the hamlets of Le Fayet d' en Haut, Le Freyney, Les Amerands, Champ -Long, Cupelin, La Cry.
  • In the valley of the Montjoie valley lie Saint- Gervais, Les Praz, Bionnay and Le Gerdilot.
  • At the Mont -Blanc edge of the Montjoie valley are Montivon, Bionnassay, La Gruvaz and Le Champel.
  • At the edge of the Mont d' Arbois Le lie Neyret, Le Vernay, Orsin, Le Golet, Le Bettex, La Combe, Les Plans, Saint -Nicolas de Véroce, Véroce and Les Houchettes.

Neighboring municipalities of Saint- Gervais- les- Bains are Passy, Les Contamines -Montjoie, Megève, Combloux, Demi -Quartier, Domancy, Les Houches and Chamonix and Courmayeur on the Italian side.


Origin of the name

The place name derives from the patron saint of Gervase of Milan. In Saint -Nicolas de Véroce the first part of the name refers to Nicholas of Myra and the second is attributed to the green alder, grows abundantly on the slopes of Mont d' Arbois. The name of the hamlet Le Fayet means beech in the Provençal dialect language.


The high valleys Savoiens are inhabited since at least the Neolithic period. In Roman times inhabited the Celtic people of Ceutronen the Montjoie valley and was only around 74 AD. conquered by the Romans. The border with the neighboring Allobroges was near Saint- Gervais.

Middle Ages

In the Montjoie valley originated in the 10th century, two large parishes: Saint- Gervais and up the valley of Saint-Nicolas de Véroce. For the latter originally owned the entire top Montjoie Valley. The founding of the parish of Notre- Dame de la Gorge ( 14th century) and Les Contamines (18th century) reduced the incidence of Saint -Nicolas de Véroce on the present territory.

In the Middle Ages, Saint- Gervais belonged to the province Faucigny. The Château des Contamines and more solid houses secured the Montjoie valley against which subsequent to the south province of Savoy. Of the permanent houses in Saint- Gervais La Haute Tour and La Comtesse still exist. The inhabitants of the Montjoie valley operated mainly agriculture, and the life in Saint- Gervais organized themselves locally in a dozen smaller hamlets, the village of Saint- Gervais was not much larger than the surrounding hamlets. With the 1355 Treaty of Paris that closed Faucigny fell to the Counts of Savoy, and accounted for the role of defending the borders of Faucigny. In the aftermath Saint- Gervais won an importance as a trading center and organized by 1371 to one of the three important fairs of the region, in addition to Martigny in the Valais and the Aosta Valley Sembrancher. The trade mainly concerned the exchange of regional products and the raising of livestock (sheep and goats).


Since the 16th century, however, the population continued to increase without that could grow the food supply, and there sat a emigrations. From this time the church buildings, which were carried out by architects of a Valsesian and financially supported by a number of successful emigrants come.

The church of Saint -Gervais was built in 1698 as a hall church. In 1792, a lightning bolt destroyed its bell tower, which was only rebuilt in 1819. From 1726-1729 replaced Saint -Nicolas de Véroce his dilapidated church also by a baroque building. Her interior and the facade was richly decorated in the following decades, to a neo-classical ceiling fresco by 1856. The church was thoroughly renovated from 2003 to 2008 and eliminates damage to the artworks. Also in the surrounding hamlets partially chapels were built in Baroque style with its own altarpieces.

Modern Times


The discovery of a thermal spring in 1806 took advantage of Saint- Gervais is rapidly to set up a thermal bath. The thermal water occurs below the village in the canyon of Bonnant out at a constant temperature of 32 ° C. It is highly mineralized and contains trace elements, iron, sulfur, sodium, and natural radioactive elements. The healing effect of source is primarily aimed at people with diseases in the ENT area, skin diseases or burns. Due to its thermal baths Saint- Gervais is authorized to perform the addition -les- Bains (Eng. "Bad ...") and changed its name on April 7, 1867 in Saint- Gervais- les- Bains.

Disaster of 1892

On the night of 12th to July 13th 1892 burst a previously undetected water bubble in the Tête Rousse glacier with an estimated volume of 100,000 m³. From the Bionnassay Gorge is poured out the water and ice in the Bonnant, where they took up large amounts of mud and debris and destroyed parts of the hamlet Bionnay. The town of Saint- Gervais was at a safe distance above the Bonnant, but the mudslide tore the location at the bottom of Bonnant Gorge thermal bath with. Overall, at least 160 people were killed. Many were flushed into Lake Geneva.

The old thermal spa was established in 1892 at the same place again. The rebuilt chapel Notre Dame du Torrent now serves as a memorial. Beginning of the 20th century, attempts were made to avert the danger of a repetition of the disaster by the construction of a drainage tunnel under the glacier. However, this measure failed, and in 2008 showed soundings with current technology again the presence of a bubble in the same glacier. The from 2010 conducted regular relief holes in the glacier ice to reduce the bubble to a safe size.

Rail link of 1898

The Act of July 17, 1879 ( Freycinet Plan ) provided for the French rail network to expand so that the development of less developed areas should there generate economic growth. A railway line through the valley of the Arve was explicitly named in this Act, and was built in the following years.

  • The rail line from La Roche- sur -Foron -Saint -Gervais was completed in 1898 and is carried out in standard gauge. The station of Saint- Gervais is at 581 m in the district of Le Fayet and is officially called Saint- Gervais- Le Fayet -. The railway company Paris -Lyon - Méditerranée (PLM in 1938 merged into the SNCF) operated on this route.
  • In Saint- Gervais- Le Fayet - the railway line closes above Chamonix to Vallorcine, the section Saint- Gervais - Chamonix in 1901 and started operations. It was also opened by the PLM, is done in meters track so that passengers have to change trains in Saint- Gervais. The track has some technical features. It was conducted from the beginning electrically, this was the power supply by means of hydroelectric power plants along the route and a laterally guided on the track busbar. Although the line having a large slope of up to 90 ‰, the web functions according to the adhesion principle, ie without the use of racks.
  • In 1908, the first section of the meter-gauge also Tramway du Mont- Blanc was opened, a mountain railway with rack and pinion drive system according to Strub. It leads from Le Fayet train station to the center of Saint- Gervais, and then further into the Mont- Blanc range up to 2386 m altitude. The current terminus Nid d' Aigle ( Eagle's Nest ), 500 meters from the Bionnassay glacier, opened on 1 August 1913 and was originally intended to be temporary. However, technical obstacles and the First World War prevented the rapid ongoing construction of the track to even greater heights. The Tramway was built and operated by a specially established company in 1964 with today's Compagnie du Mont- Blanc merged, which operates the ski lifts in the Chamonix valley.

Winter sports

The skiing as a recreational sport began in Saint Gervais in 1936 with the construction of a tramway in two sections, Saint- Gervais - Le Bettex - Mont d' Arbois (1833 m), by the Paris system manufacturers Applevage. In the 80s, the aerial tramways were replaced and the persons capacity of the plants increased significantly. Taking advantage of the existing infrastructure of the section Saint- Gervais received - Le Bettex one of the first dual-cable gondolas France. In the second section in 1989 a 12- built gondola new. Since the winter of 1970, Saint -Nicolas de Véroce has a first ski lift, and in subsequent years, the common resort to Saint- Gervais developed to its present form. His last major expansion was the development of the Mont Joly in 1984. The gondolas also be operated in the summer months.

Tour de France

Saint- Gervais was twice stage of the tour de France.

Bypass in 2012

The geography of the Montjoie valley has meant that visitors must pass through the valley of the village of Saint- Gervais. This is especially true for the connection to Les Contamines and for access to the ski resort of Saint- Gervais, but also one of the streets in the neighboring winter sports center Megève performs Saint- Gervais. Before deciding on a ring road more than 13,000 vehicles per direction in the very center of Saint- Gervais were on weekends and peak periods regularly counted, a situation that stressed the quality of life and reputation as a health resort. Therefore, a new bridge over the Bonnant was built, the traffic directly to the station of Saint- Gervais before the town center - directs Le Bettex gondola and on to Megève.

Population and Society

With 5646 inhabitants (as of 1 January 2011) Saint- Gervais is one of the medium size municipalities in the department of Haute -Savoie. In the 20th century the population grew steadily.


  • Germany Waldbronn ( Germany )
  • Belgium Rochefort (Belgium )
  • Switzerland Morges ( Switzerland )

Economy and infrastructure

In Saint- Gervais are 1013 registered companies (as of 2009 ), of which the majority (63 %) are attributed to the service and trade sectors. This is followed by the public sector (22 %), which concentrated in the village of Le Fayet construction ( 9%) and the manufacturing sector ( 6%). Unemployment in the municipal area is 3.9% and is mainly used for the 15 - considerably lower than the average 24 year olds.

Between 1988 and 2000, a decline of farms was recorded from 81 to 50, who still manage a total area of 1149 ha. The place now lives mainly from tourism, particularly aimed at the winter sports enthusiasts, hikers, mountain climbers and spa guests. Saint- Gervais has 24 hotels (as of 2012) and 65 % of the 7988 units are registered as second or holiday home.

Winter sports

The ski resorts of Saint- Gervais and Saint -Nicolas de Véroce are interconnected and form with the slopes of Megève, which connect to the back of the Mont d' Arbois, a large connected ski area with common lift pass. This ski resort is marketed as Evasion Mont- Blanc, and includes the areas of Les Contamines- Hauteluce, La Giettaz and Combloux. The two ski in Saint- Gervais are owned by two separate public companies with a common Board of Directors. There are the Société des Téléportés Bettex Mont d'Arbois ( STBMA ) for the Saint- Gervais -facing flank of the Mont d' Arbois and the Société d' Equipement du Mont Joly ( SEMJ ) for the area between Saint -Nicolas and the Mont Joly. They each have net sales of € 6.5 M and 2.5 M € and EBITDA of € 1.9M and € 780,000 (2010 /2011). The French junior ski jumper Marie Hoyau comes from St. Gervais.

Power plants

A multi-level diversion generates energy with the water of Bonnant. It was built in 1908 and increased its installed capacity during a major renovation in 1984 to 18 MW. The main stage uses means of pressure lines a total drop of 177 m and has a maximum flow of 12 m³ / s.


Saint- Gervais can be reached directly by rail or via the A40 motorway and a very good transport developed. Geneva International Airport is about one hour away. Availability is somewhat limited by its location in a high valley again, so there is only a direct access road to Saint -Gervais, and wintry road conditions, the connections between the various hamlets complicate something. Tourism contributes significantly to the volume of traffic.

In Le Fayet in the field of neighboring communities, there are two connections to the A40 motorway, which runs through the valley of the Arve and connects Lyon and Geneva Chamonix and the Mont- Blanc tunnel. There are exits 21, " Saint- Gervais- les- Bains, Passy- center" and No. 22 " Le Fayet: Passy- Le Fayet, Megève, Saint- Gervais- les- Bains ", the latter is not bidirectional can be driven only from or towards Chamonix. The route Departmental D902 opens from Le Fayet from the Montjoie valley and passes through Saint- Gervais. As a further inter-municipal road branches off from Saint- Gervais from the D909 to Megeve from. The D43 (after Saint -Nicolas de Véroce ) and D343 ( serpentine road to Le Bettex up ) run exclusively in the municipal area.


The Gare Saint -Gervais- Le Fayet is a junction between three different railways and is also located in the district of Le Fayet. The standard gauge rail line from La Roche- sur -Foron -Saint -Gervais ends here, and two different meter gauge stretch lead in the high valleys of the Arve. The railway line to Vallorcine follows the course of the Arve and guaranteed admission in the Chamonix valley.

The other narrow gauge mountain railway route is the Tramway du Mont- Blanc. It also branches off from Le Fayet and operated once the center of Saint- Gervais and several hamlets before ascending to the viewpoint Nid d' Aigle. Regional Express trains (ter ) to Annemasse or Chamonix drive typically in a two-hour clock, which is compressed to an hour during the high season or during rush hour. On Saturdays during the winter season also runs a TGV, Paris from Gare de Lyon with the ski resorts along the Arvetals connects.


In Saint- Gervais are:

  • Three kindergartens: one with a private carrier ( Assomption Valmontjoie ) and 2 public ( Ecole maternelle Marie Paradis and Groupe scolaire du Fayet ).
  • Five elementary schools: one with a private carrier ( Assomption Valmontjoie ) and 4 public ( Ecole élémentaire Marie Paradis, Groupe scolaire du Fayet, école de Bionnay et école du Mont -Joly ).
  • A secondary private school ( Assomption Valmontjoie ) in the center of the village.