Saint Swithun’s Church: Aix-les-Bains

A place of history and beauty, amongst its many features the town is famous for its thermal baths dating back to Roman times. They are still in use with state of the art facilities in a modern centre focussed on treatments for rheumatism using natural thermal water, mud and hot steam. A facility at the Thalassa institute provides thermal leisure and treatment pools, massages, saunas, steam baths, aqua gym, beauty care, jets and jacuzzis.
Between mountain peaks and the famous Lac du Bourget, the town and its surrounds offer a wealth of heritage, cultural, sports and leisure activities all year round. Amongst its many architectural treasures are the Roman remains of the funeral Arch of Campanus and the Temple of Diana that house an archaeological museum. Formerly a castle, the Town Hall is built in the Gothic style close to the Temple of Diana. Guided tours called ‘Fil de l’eau’ are organised for visitors to the town’s main sites by the Tourist Office.
During the ‘belle époque’ in the nineteenth century, a feature of the town’s history was a British and international community who, along with nobility and European aristocracy, flocked for leisure and pleasure to the city of water and light. The Palace hotels and Residences bear witness to the grandeur of the period. Between 1884 and 1914 guests included George I King of Greece as a regular visitor, Elizabeth Empress of Austria and the Duke of Windsor. Queen Victoria stayed on three occasions and was a generous benefactor in memory of her visits along with her family and entourage. Street and road names, monuments and plaques remember the Royal visitors and European elite in Aix-les-Bains.
Saint Swithun’s Church
Known as Le Temple, Saint Swithun’s Church stands as a monument to the Anglican community. It was built in 1869 with donations from the English colony in Aix-les-Bains. A bilingual leaflet on the history of the church was written and produced by the town’s Grapevine Association for the 140th anniversary of Saint Swithun’s Church, on the occasion of the visit of the Lyon Anglican community to Aix-les-Bains on 11 July 2010.
It reproduces images of particular features of the church including the organ, built by Hunter and Son, London, installed in 1895 and restored by “Les Amis de l’Orgue de St Swithun” in 1983. The church is currently used for concerts and other cultural events.
Both founders and chief supporters of the building project, a marble wall plaque is dedicated to Lady Whalley, a major benefactor, who died in 1906. She was the wife of Sir Samuel Saint Swithun Burden Whalley who died in 1883. The East window ‘Healing at the Pool of Bethesda’ is a memorial to him after whom the church is named.
Research on Harriet Rose Trench, of Irish origin, and Sir Samuel Whalley is produced separate to this text. Part in English, part in French, it includes a historical note in French about the construction and features of Saint Swithun’s Church, Aix-les-Bains.
Ita Marguet, March 2012
Note: Acknowledgement is given to all sources used in its preparation with special appreciation to Claire Delorme-Pegaz, President of Aix-les-Bains Grapevine Association. It follows a visit to the town and a short cure at the Chevalley Thermal Centre, March 2012.