Since the 13th century, La Valsainte (valley of all saints) charterhouse has been located at the end of the earth, in a remote part of Gruyère, now the only community of the order in Switzerland.
A charterhouse is a community of monks from a very austere contemplative order: the monks choose to live shut away from the world, silent and solitary, dedicating their time to prayer.
Within an enclosed wall, the monks' small individual houses comprise a bed, a workshop, a small enclosed garden, a place of study and a place of prayer. At the centre of the complex are buildings where the community gathers together on certain occasions.
La Valsainte charterhouse was founded in 1295. It was closed in 1778 by the Fribourg government, who wanted to take over its revenues. The Carthusian monks finally returned to their monastery in 1863.
The church, which does not have an organ, is as sober as the monks' way of life. It features 14th century vaults. Its decoration dates from the 19th century and it features non-figurative stained-glass windows by Fribourg native Bernard Schorderet, a tabernacle and an enamel processional cross by the French artist Raymond Mirande.
The current buildings date from between the 17th and the late 19th century. In 2000, following the deterioration of the southern section of the monastery, it was necessary to "deconstruct" some of the cells in order to consolidate the building. Around 15 monks currently live at La Valsainte.
You have to climb a little higher to see the monastery, which is closed to visitors, apart from the public chapel and a kiosk. Walking around the walls also allows you to understand the size of the site. At the Musée de Charmey , a lively reconstruction introduces visitors to the daily lives of the Carthusian monks.
An ingenious "mechanic monk" lived here. He liked his sleep and was often late for the night service, so he invented a very loud alarm clock (bell, chime, drum...) which activated a plank and a rope to pull him out of bed!