The Chapel’s brief history

Under the reign of Louis XIII and the action of Richelieu who cen­tral­ized power, Embrun lost its mil­i­tary pur­pose. Its citadel, in ruins after the pas­sage of Lesdiguières, and strongly recalling the dis­sen­sions of yesteryear, was razed by the deci­sion of the King (February 1633). After having restored part of the for­ti­fi­ca­tions, Louis XIII then decided to donate the cleared land to the Capuchins, a Franciscan men­di­cant order, whose cre­ation he autho­rized in Embrun by let­ters patent of August 12, 1633.

Indeed, the Capuchin Friars Minor of Embrun had occu­pied since their cre­ation a house intended for a hos­pice to the north of the old parish church of Saint-Vincent. But the con­text of the Counter-Reformation and the action of the new Archbishop of Embrun, William de Hugues (1612-1648), him­self trained among the Franciscans, were favor­able to their devel­op­ment. From 1644, the con­struc­tion of a con­vent began on the grounds of the old citadel. It was com­pleted the fol­lowing year, in 1645, thanks to the dona­tions of a cer­tain Chantaraine des Crottes, the canon and sac­ristan Hugues Emé (who donated his library to them) and the largesse of Monsignor Guillaume d´Hugues.

This con­vent con­sisted of an east-west ori­ented church and a group of con­vent build­ings attached to the south, orga­nized around a cloister. On either side of the build­ings were siz­able gar­dens, pro­viding sus­te­nance for the thirty or so brothers who could be wel­comed there. As the church still tes­ti­fies, one can imagine that all the build­ings of the con­vent were extremely sober and sup­ported little dec­o­ra­tion. Indeed, the cre­ation of this new order of Capuchins, founded in Italy, per­fectly illus­trates the advent of a new inte­rior reli­gion, intended to cor­rect past abuses. The order advo­cated an authentic return to their roots, a life marked by the aus­terity of its mem­bers who, them­selves making vows of poverty, lived mainly on alms.

Following the attack of the Duke of Savoy in the region, during the summer of 1692, at the origin of a new siege of Embrun, Vauban was sent urgently to the front of the Alps in order to improve the defense of the sector. . It was on this occa­sion that he wrote his two "Project (s) for the for­ti­fi­ca­tion of Embrun" dated December 9 and 16, 1692, pro­jects which would involve a major upheaval in the neigh­bor­hood. In fact, in the second pro­ject, adopted by the king, Vauban rec­om­mends, in addi­tion to the reuse of existing bas­tions, the ampli­fi­ca­tion of ditches, the cre­ation of glacis, and cov­ered paths. He ordered the con­struc­tion of sev­eral build­ings including a bar­racks called Delaroche and a powder magazine. These new build­ings, per­fectly iden­ti­fi­able on the relief map of Embrun from 1701, will be located around the Capuchin con­vent, still in oper­a­tion. Despite these major upheavals, the build­ings of the con­vent did not undergo a few changes. Apart from the enlarge­ment of a wing (which appears on the 18th-cen­tury plans) and some main­te­nance work (repair of the plaster in 1731, etc.), the con­vent con­tinued to func­tion until 1790, although the poverty linked to the wars and bad har­vests, reduced alms and the number of reli­gious. However, the dis­trict con­tinued to become denser with the con­struc­tion of a food store (now Handling) in 1784.

When the French Revolution started, resulting in the dis­so­lu­tion of orders and the con­fis­ca­tion of the goods of the Clergy and the Crown, the Capuchins, num­bering 7 fathers and 4 brothers, had the choice between regaining their freedom, pro­vided with a pen­sion or be grouped else­where. They even­tu­ally stayed there for a while. On March 13, 1792, the bells and other brass from the churches of Embrun, including that of the Capuchins, were sent to Montpellier to be melted down. Following a riot, the con­vent church was per­ma­nently closed on April 15 of the same year.

The Delaroche district, district of the Chapelle des Capucins

The end of the 18th and 19th cen­turies opened a new page in the his­tory of the Capuchin con­vent. Following the sup­pres­sion of the order, the con­ven­tional build­ings under­went a major restruc­turing to serve the Army, no doubt at the time of the transfer of a reg­i­ment of cuirassiers and artillerymen to Embrun, in 1811. The cloister was sup­pressed and all or part of the wings were destroyed or altered in order to serve as addi­tional spaces to the mil­i­tary build­ings already existing in the dis­trict.

In the middle of the 19th cen­tury, the new wings housed the Engineers, the Governor of the place, and the General Staff. In 1842, the church building was enlarged and trans­formed into an arsenal, weapons room (fencing). Indeed, the instal­la­tion of an artillery reg­i­ment at the begin­ning of the cen­tury had made it nec­es­sary to build an arsenal (store for artillery pieces) that the place of Embrun did not have. In 1850, in the court­yard of the offi­cers’ pavilion, a cis­tern was dug to supply the mil­i­tary dis­trict.

Despite total or par­tial absences and the down­grading of the stronghold of Embrun in 1878, the mil­i­tary pres­ence was main­tained, notably with the pres­ence of Battalions of Alpine Chasseurs (12 BCA, 14 BCA, 30 BCA). A number of new build­ings are also emerging as the powder magazine of the Capuchin bas­tion and other small premises or shel­ters for vehi­cles/ani­mals.

During the interwar period, this pres­ence was fur­ther increased with the pas­sage of the 159th Alpine Infantry Regiment, the 72nd Alpine Fortress Battalion, and the 6th Moroccan Tirailleurs Regiment. That also left a trace of his pas­sage through a painted coat of arms.

After the Second World War, the mil­i­tary occu­piers were few. Let us quote the Direction des Camps de l’Aéronavale (DCAN) installed in the offi­cers’ pavilion as well as a com­pany of the 159th Alpine Infantry Regiment, trans­ferred on-site until August 1981, during the ren­o­va­tion works of one of the bar­racks. Berwick in Briançon. The liq­uidator (last unit on site) was the CM 144 (Center Mobilisateur d’Infanterie 144) After this date, the lib­er­a­tion of the mil­i­tary influ­ence begins until the final depar­ture of the army around 1982-1983 offering the Municipality a unique oppor­tu­nity for urban recom­po­si­tion.