No apologies for writing on and on about Megeve. It’s that special.

Les Croix de Megeve

In keeping with the majority Roman Catholicsm in France and its neighbouring countries, Megeve is not unusual for having a multitude of religious symbols.

However one of them is different – the Megeve Cross (Les Croix de Megeve). This cross had its origin in 1750. The village was past of the House of Savoy (more about that later) and consequently, young men had to travel to the Turin (Italy) area to do military service. This was a commitment of seven years.

In most cases, they left loved ones behind with promises of betrothal on their return. After six years of hard military work, the conscripts would return to Megeve on leave.

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They would then re-kindle their relationships and on return to Turin, visit the local goldsmith and pay over their savings from the past six years – a cross was ordered : the Megeve Cross.

The picture denotes the cross how it has evolved to-day. In past times amendments were made whereby Christ on the Cross was on one side (in the flat part) and the Virgin Mary on the reverse (a later addition to ward off the march of Protestantism.)

To-day, the embellishments would make the price of the cross prohibitive.

The soldiers then spent their last year of training and returned to the village in the mountains with their Cross and a year’s wages. They presented these to their loved ones who had waited patiently for them, and became married.

The Cross never leaves the family and is passed to the ‘daughter most deserving’. Dominique Joly a descendant of the first jewellers has a manufacturing and retail store in Megeve and is the sole supplier of the Megeve Cross to the local inhabitants – typically in gold or silver and 3cm or 4.5cm high.

The House of Savoy

University of Cape Town students in History 1 and 2 will never have forgotten how we tried to unravel the House of Savoy and its machinations over the centuries.

Suffice to say that it was formed in the early eleventh century in the historic Savoy and High Savoy region (Megeve is in the High Savoy).

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Through gradual expansion the House of Savoy grew from a small county in the region of northern Italy and France to ruling the whole of the Kingdom of Italy and what we know to-day as Switzerland.

Historians argue that when the House of Savoy was abolished in 1946 in the aftermath of Italian fascism, it was the longest surviving royal house in the world.

The House of Savoy had many reiterations with the most famous being that of Victor Emmanuel 111. The residences of the House in Turin and neighbouring sites are protected by World Heritage status. Family members still insist in using the titles of Count, King etc.

Currently, the leadership is contested by two cousins – Victor Emmanual (claims the title King of Italy) and Duke Amadeo (claims Duke of Savoy). In May 2004, their rivalries overflowed and during a dinner hosted by King Juan Carlos of Spain, Victor punched Amadeo twice in the face!

The House of Savoy still lays claim to their privileges even though the Italian and French governments totally ignore their claims. Victor Emmanuel’s son, Emanuele Filiberto works as a hedge-fund manager in Geneva.

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[Palazzo Carginano – one of nine palaces in the Turin region. Now under control of the Italian state]

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