From Perouges to Bugey

The mysterious fresco of St-Sorlin-en-Bugey and its audio tour

On April 22, 2021 / Walks

In the pretty village of Saint-Sorlin-en-Bugey, between the Rhône and the Bugey mountains, a fresco painted on a house awaits the traveller's visit. St-Christophe and friends tell their stories to those who know how to watch and listen. Are we telling you?

We often tell you, Pérouges Bugey Tourisme is a territory full of mysteries. Legends, tales and other landscapes magical atmospheres often leave room for the imagination. In St-Sorlin-en-Bugey, a pretty village with a winemaking tradition, a colorful fresco and surprising adorns one of the beautiful old facades.
Waiting to be able get there to marvel, discovery of this confidential painting gem in an original format: in images and sounds.
The sound clips are from the immersive audio tour of the village, created by Kittyour tour guide, as colorful as the pretty fresco whose story she tells us in hushed words...

fresque expliquée par la visite audio de St-Sorlin

Although very beautiful, it seems very enigmatic in the eyes of the walker... A huge figure in a large red coat carries a curious child on his back. While several different figures animate the right part of the painting. Who could these people be? What amazing stories does this image from another era tell?

Ready to dive into the secrets of St-Sorlin-en-Bugey?

Uncover the mysteries of the fresco on an immersive audio tour

A first mystery: disappearances and reappearance of the fresco

For centuries it has been rumored that a fresco would be painted on a facade of the village of St-Sorlin-en-Bugey. In this village with medieval-looking houses, no one knows where it is, or what it would represent. The inhabitants are not far from believing a popular rumor.

Where the hell was that fresco hiding all this time?

During a trip to Germany, a certain Charles Thollon Giles discovered in a magazine the mention of a traveling painter who had represented the legend of St Christopher in Saint-Sorlin-en-Bugey. On his return, he informed the Baron de Truchis, who turned his attention to a house with a small Savoy cross above the door. He bought it in 1909 and carefully removed the plaster covering the facade, thus revealing the fresco.

Lucky coincidence or disturbing coincidence?

The fresco dates from beginning of the 16st century, in a technique the fresh and relates on its left part, the history of the giant Offérus become St-Christophe after a long spiritual quest. This initiatory journey will undoubtedly earn him his title of patron saint of travelers. Unless its presence overlooking the Rhône was protection for merchants and boatmen of the river…

vue panoramique du village de St-Sorlin-en-Bugey
Saint Sorlin en Bugey facing the peaceful Rhône

Christophe watches over travelers on the Rhône. But also on the cyclists of the Viarhona !

Let yourself be told the legend of the fresco of St. Christopher the Giant...

No doubt you're burning now know all this history ! Here it is, in image and sound, for an even more immersive discovery of this painting and its legend.

It's the story of a giant, who crosses paths with the devil and meets a mysterious old man before becoming a saint...

A path strewn with encounters

One day Offered, son of pagan king and giant of his condition, wanted to put himself at the service of the most powerful monarch in the world. He wanted to serve “one who fears no one”.

Short summary of the legend in audio: attention spoiler alert* (revelation of the end!)

fragment de la fresque de St-Christophe pour la visite audio
Where are you going gentle giant?

He went to find a great king renowned for his bravery and kindness. One day when a troubadour was singing a song evoking the devil, the monarch began to tremble and make the sign of the cross. Intrigued, the giant questioned him and the king explained to him that he greatly feared the devil. Offerus said to him: “If you fear the devil, then you are not the most powerful monarch in the world. Farewell, king, I leave you to go and put myself at the service of the devil.

The traveler in the corner next to the mill is the giant who sets out. The king is symbolized by the first tree on the path, the smallest and least dense.

After a long wandering, he met a terrible-looking man in the middle of the desert. The man told him that he was the devil, and the giant swore loyalty to him. For a long time Offerus gave himself up to evil deeds, in the service of his lord. One day they both passed a cross on a path. The devil shuddered and explained to the giant that he had once nailed a man called Christ on a cross, but that Christ had conquered him by his death. Offerus said to him: “If you fear Christ, then you are not the most powerful monarch in the world. Farewell, devil, I am leaving you to go and put myself at the service of Christ.”

The Devil, second stage is represented by the second tree of the path, larger and leafy.

extrait de la fresque de St-Christophe pour la visite audio

The conversion of the giant

One day he crossed paths witha hermit whom he asked how to find Christ? The hermit replied that Christ was everywhere. To reach it, it was enough to fast and pray. Offerus explained that his condition as a giant did not allow him to fast and that he did not know how to pray. The hermit then entrusted him with the mission of pass travelers from one bank of the river to the other on his shoulders.

The hermit's lantern seems to be turned towards the highest house on the road. It is the house of God, in view of the trilobe (symbol of the Trinity) on the facade. And the last tree, in full bloom, represents the completion of the quest for self.

extrait de la fresque de St-Sorlin-enBugey pour la visite audio

One night, a child showed up. Offered sat him on his shoulders and began his crossing. But the more he advanced, the more the burden became heavy, crushing. He reached the other bank with great difficulty, put the child on the ground and said to him: "Young child, when I had you on my shoulders I seemed to carry the whole world". The child replied: “Do not be surprised: you carried the one who carries the world” [symbolized by the globe surmounted by a cross]

End of the journey and quest for self

The child then revealed to him to be the Christ, whom the giant had been looking for for so long. He then named the giant "Christopher": the one who carries Christ. To prove his identity, the child ordered Christophe to plant his stick in his garden. The next morning, Christophe saw that the stick had turned into a magnificent palm tree with fruits [The palms that can be seen at the end of the stick].  

The waves, here very nicely stylized, represent the time of trials, where one can lose ground. Offered crosses from left to right, therefore from Evil to Good, and towards the light of the hermit. The fish is one of the oldest symbols of the Christian faith. The ichtus ("fish" in ancient Greek) is the acronym of Jesus Christ, son of God Savior.

Many more stories

The legend of Christopher the Giant is over, but the fresco reveals many more stories… Do you want to hear them? So you will need continue this immersive audio tour in its integral version to know everything about the enigmas of the village. For example : Who is this man in red and gold? Why does this saint have his feet in the flames? and name of a Bugey ramekin, what is the coat of arms of Savoy doing here?

Pour le savoir, follow the voice of the guide and don't get lost... in historical hypotheses!

So many mysteries and suppositions for a single façade!

So ends this puzzle-filled audio tour…

The fresco and the village of St-Sorlin-en-Bugey present many surprises and still many mysteries, to be solved or left to the imagination. In addition to the audio tour, to continue the discovery, the history of the village and the life of its inhabitants in the 18th century is told to you during theatrical visits, conducted by Pérouges Bugey Tourisme, between April and October.

Always more puzzles and secrets

Did you know ? St-Sorlin-en-Bugey is overlooked by the Rocher de la Pouponne, which owes its name to the pilgrimages of young women who came to the cliff to ensure their fertility. But this is another story…

Sabrina Megani

Published by


Residence advisor

Old stones and pretty villages, she can't get enough of them. So much so that she moved to Pérouges, where she discovered a passion for gardening! Also likes to walk (but not run, never run) and take pictures. The rest of the time she prefers reading and eating cheese (with wine).


Special sign : collects tartan clothing.
Preferred country: Scotland (unless it's Italy).
Absolute fan of: tea !
Nature favorite: the blue lake.
Cultural favorite: the Ambronay festival.