Exhibition « The Historical Monuments of Viviers and the Studies of the Chaillot School »



The day of the opening, 20 July, arrived. This forgotten chapel was able to receive the public under its magnificent cloister arch for the first time since its closure during the Revolution. The exhibition features a study by the Chaillot School on the possible use of the chapel as a music school and cultural venue, as well as images of the historical monuments of the town of Viviers.

The two photo galleries show the opening of the exhibition as well as the preparation work of the association's volunteers.

Many personalities were present: Mme Mattei mayor of Viviers, Bertrand Malval diocesan bursar, Véronique Villaneau architect teacher at the Ecole de Chaillot, Bernard Salques from the "Sauvegarde des Monuments anciens de l'Ardèche", Philippe Garel, from the "Fondation du Patrimoine". .... We had already obtained a delegation of work management from the diocesan association. The municipality recently granted us the same delegation for the nuns' choir, which belongs to it. This will greatly facilitate the studies and the work to come. The aim of the association, in agreement with the DRAC, is to give the chapel back its role as a parish church, but also to create a new cultural venue that will be able to host concerts, conferences, exhibitions and meetings. We wish to revive the chapel, which is one of the three jewels created by Jean-Baptiste Franque in the 18th century.  

We had obtained permission from the diocesan association, which owns the nave, to hold an exhibition there this summer. Véronique Villaneau, the teaching architect, had agreed that the work of the architects from the Ecole de Chaillot could be displayed there. 


Didier Petigny was willing to go and take photos of all the listed and registered monuments in Viviers. All that remained was to make the chapel visitable. So Georges and Catherine Angotta, Dani Suter, Didier Petigny, helped by Guillerme Marqués Antume and Daniel Hardant, a volunteer, rolled up their sleeves. They cleared away the remaining clutter, made all the panels by hand, and had the electricity restored by Georges. Then Didier vacuumed the top of the pillars and installed the photos with the texts by Yvonne Leclère.

Exhibition "Testimony on the Lafarge Industrial Heritage adventure in Viviers"

The exhibition proposed by the association "Sauver Viviers" will be visible from August 1st to 31st from 10am to 12pm and from 3pm to 6pm at the Maison de Sampzon near the cathedral. Free entrance 

From 1833, in Viviers, the Pavin family started to exploit the Montagne du Détroit for the production of lime, then cement. The company grew, became worldwide and inaugurated social advances in a world that had not yet developed all the protections we know.

In difficult conditions, thousands of workers worked in the quarries or in the kilns; hundreds of families lived in the workers' housing estate known as "Cité Blanche". They still call each other "Lafargeois" and share their memories when they get together.

The exhibition will take you back into this past with the help of postcards and more recent photos. A small booklet tells the story of this industrial adventure and you can watch the description of cement production on the TV.

You will also be able to visit the two courtyards of the Maison de Sampzon and get to know our association better, as it works to promote and restore the industrial and architectural heritage of Viviers.


A new exhibition for "Sauver Viviers"

Review of the exhibition

Our exhibition on Jean-Baptiste Franque and his sons, which was held in part of the Maison de Sampzon (MH) from the 1st to the 30th of August, was a great success with 1748 visitors and many testimonies, in our visitors' book, of the interest it presented.

The photos, all taken by our talented photographer, were very well received, as was the little booklet produced by our association with texts by Yvonne Leclère and photos by Didier Petigny.

This encourages us to continue our efforts to achieve our objectives, the first of which is the restoration of Notre-Dame du Rhône.

The booklet on Jean-Baptiste Franque can be sent free of charge, on request to the association.


When the traveller arrives in Viviers sud, crossing the Rhône, he discovers the silhouette of the town hall on the left and that of the bishop's palace on the right, and then just below, as he approaches, the Notre-Dame du Rhône chapel. These are three of the four jewels of the architect Jean-Baptiste Franque's constructions, the fourth being the vault of the cathedral. 

In its concern to make the heritage of Viviers better known, the association "Sauver Viviers" decided to create an exhibition on Jean-Baptiste Franque, who, with the help of his sons, provided the whole of south-east France with buildings of private mansions and churches with magnificent vaults.

In Viviers, in 1732, the new episcopal palace with its Italian-style hall was built for Mgr de Villeneuve, followed in 1734 by the Hôtel de Roqueplane for the collector of the Vivarais tax. This was followed shortly afterwards by the construction of a new chapel for the Dominican nuns. And finally, in 1757, Mgr Morel de Mons entrusted the Franques with the construction of a new vault for the cathedral.

For this exhibition, Yvonne Leclère (who wrote a documentation booklet) accompanied the talented photographer Didier Petigny in his search for evidence of Jean-Baptiste Franque's art in a number of emblematic places: Tarascon, Beaucaire, the Chartreuse de Valbonne and of course Avignon. Each of Viviers' works was the subject of a complete panel.

The inauguration, in a restricted committee because of the health crisis, took place on 31 July in a friendly atmosphere. Among the first to discover the exhibition were Madame Mattei, recently appointed mayor, Pascal Terrasse, emissary of Laurent Ughetto, Father Goudard, vicar general, Régis Fabre of the Fondation du patrimoine, Laurent Haond, president of Liger...

Mr de Talhouet, president of the association "Sauver Viviers" then received them in his garden for a friendly drink.

Inauguration de l'exposition

The town hall had called on a heritage architect who is currently preparing a study of several monuments in Viviers:

  • House of the Knights
  • Episcopal Palace
  • Notre-Dame du Rhône
  • Saint Laurent Church

The CRPA (Commission Régionale du Patrimoine et de l'Architecture) has given a favourable opinion for the extension of the classification of the choir, which was not yet protected, and we are awaiting confirmation from the Ministry of Culture. The DRAC wants the study to include the chapel and the nuns' choir, since in the past these two spaces were one. 

The earthquake of 11.11.2019

The recent earthquake that dramatically affected Le Teil had some consequences on Viviers:

  • some houses in the hills were affected
  • some damage to the town hall
  • closure of the cathedral for safety reasons
  • damage to the Cité Lafarge

Town Hall 

Cracks are appearing around the service staircase (some of which were already apparent during our previous visit last October): vertical cracks on the pedestal on the ground floor and on the lintel between the corridor and the staircase. Cracks were also found on the door frames on level 1, as well as a subsidence of the staircase landing on level 1, of the order of 5 mm, visible at the level of the skirting boards. These disorders, already visible last October, seem to have been accentuated following the earthquake of 11/11. We were also informed of a new crack in the rose window of the Italian room (ceiling), although it is not absolutely certain that this crack is linked to the earthquake of 11/11 (disorders perhaps linked to the oscillation of the chandelier during the earthquake).

The architect Mr. Donjerkovic went around to check the damage to the monuments he is studying.

Notre-Dame du Rhône

Displacement of the keystones on the door and window of the entrance facade can be seen (old disorders). On the courtyard side, two cracks in the lintels of level 2 of the former dwelling (breakage of the lintel stones) can be seen, although it is not possible to say that this breakage is linked to the earthquake. However, it is recommended that these bays be shored up, as the breakage of the lintels could lead to the partial ruin of the roof. Vertical and vault cracks have also been identified on the ground floor of the chapel's annexes, which are not of an urgent structural nature.

Review of the summer exhibition

The photo exhibition was intended to present the architectural and pictorial heritage of Viviers to tourists, highlighting the need for restoration.

The exhibition room was located in the Sampzon house (Monument Historique) in front of the Porte de la Gâche, the crossing point for all tourists visiting the cathedral.

A young student from Vivarois was in charge of the reception, and his knowledge and enthusiasm interested nearly 5,000 visitors (counted) between 15 July and 31 August.

The 40 pages of praise in the "Golden Book" opened in the exhibition are a remarkable encouragement for us to do even more to develop our action in favour of Viviers.    

Summer exhibition

For the tourists of this summer the association exhibits photos of Didier Pétigny highlighting the two places that we want to restore: Notre-Dame du Rhône and the Italian room.

Photos from the previous exhibition on the cathedral are also on display.

You can end your visit by discovering a small garden which is usually closed.  



900 years of the cathedral

On 27 February 1119, 900 years ago this year, the new cathedral of Viviers was consecrated by Pope Calixtus II. So "Sauver Viviers" has decided to commemorate this event by presenting an exhibition of our regular photographer, Didier Petigny, on the theme of the cathedral with some completely new photos.


We would be very happy to receive your visit on this occasion.

La Maison de Sampzon accueille une nouvelle exposition :


EXhibition from 9th to 16th of SEPTEMBEr 2018

More than 40 A4 photos were presented between 9 and 16 September in the beautiful vaulted room in the basement of the Maison de Sampzon opposite the Porte de la Gâche.

1090 visitors were able to enjoy this exhibition and then walk in the ruins of an old house, converted into an original garden. 

Situated between the walls of the canonical city and the tower of the cathedral, the house of Sampzon is partly built on the very old door of the Gache, which is used by tourists on their way to the cathedral.

Opposite the Porte de la Gache is the entrance to a vaulted room which we can imagine was the private chapel or oratory of the resident canon, and later a sacristy where the officiating canons put on the vestments corresponding to the day's feast before going up to the cathedral in procession, which would explain the presence on a wall of eighteen figures which could correspond to the supports for priestly vestments.

It is this place, linked to the religious history of Viviers, that we have chosen to present the exhibition of remarkable unpublished photos by Didier Pétigny, a non-professional but very talented photographer who has joined the active and voluntary team of "Sauver Viviers".

The photos are almost entirely devoted to these heritage treasures, which are the Italian-style salon of the episcopal palace, now the town hall, and the Dominican chapel, Notre-Dame du Rhône.

We remind you that "Sauver Viviers" intends to participate in the restoration of these two monuments. 

Status of our projects as of 21 June 2018


The DRAC has given its agreement on the specifications of the global study necessary before considering restoration work.

We thought that the condition of the paintings to be restored was only due to rising damp. However, it would appear that other causes are at the origin of the deterioration observed.

The Town Hall should soon issue a call for tenders to heritage architects to carry out this study, which we hope to be able to do next autumn.


What we had hoped for has finally come true. The chapel will very soon be restored to its original state with its "Choir of the Nuns".

For the moment there are two owners (project managers) for this complex, but the municipality, which has just acquired the "Choir of the Nuns", should approach the bishopric to find a solution that will allow us to have only one owner for the nave and the Choir of the Nuns in this chapel.

We will take part in the necessary steps to obtain the extension of the classification as a "historic monument" and to draw up the specifications for the study prior to the restoration of this exceptional ensemble.