The Conquistadors who were in the search of a new El Dorado also went through terrible times. The cocoa prepared for them by the Aztecs was not to their liking because it was too fatty and bitter, but since they had already exhausted their own food supplies they had no other choice but to get used to the taste. And so when you see a gold wrapper on a bar you'll remember who first cultivated and prepared this potent substance. http://www.bonnat-chocolatier.com/uk/05_histoire.html Moving ahead more than 350 years, Félix Bonnat opens the Bonnat Chocolate Shop at #8, cours Sénozan in Voiron (3 miles north of the Isère). Shortly thereafter, he creates the French praline which forms the basis of the Voiron Pavé. He is off to the races. The Bonnat family is to this very day the oldest family firm (4th generation) still producing handmade chocolates starting right from the actual cacao bean. Its manufacturing success was modelled after the textille industry which has been Voiron's forte. Some of those chocolates might contain a gooey substance made from the liqueur named after the region (la liqueur éponyme des Pères Chartreux -- monastère de la Grande Chartreuse situé à Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse).
The annual fair of Saint-Martin, November 10-11, dates from 1356. The streets are packed with hundreds of booths and this capital of the Chartreuse (département de l'Isère et la région Rhône-Alpes) welcomes over 200,000 guests. The counts of Savoy still reigned at that time the town of Voiron was granted the right to enjoy a weekly market every Wednesday, and an annual fair November 11th, the feast day Saint Martin. Originally, the fair facilitated exchanges between the neighboring village communities. At a later time when an extra day was added, most participants were bakers, traders of livestock, clothiers, farmers, cheese makers, millers, jewelers from all over France. The only years the fair was not held were 1714 and 1715 due to livestock epidemics affecting a large proportion of the herds. Today, the fair no longer relies on animals, and the clothiers (makers of cloth) have been replaced by the merchants of clothing (chinois ?). "Fête Saint Martinus" has become a time for the artists in the region to sell their efforts, too.
The tower of Barral dates from the thirteenth century, part of the early defensive system of Voiron, because during the eleventh century, Voiron was part of the Savoyard enclave within Dauphinois. That would change by 1377 when the Dauphin (the heir to the French throne-usually the King's eldest son) would obtain Voiron by exclusive fee. The castle to which the tower was associated fell to ruin from disuse, then it much later was rebuilt as a residence. Finally, the family Barral (in 1910) gave the castle to the city for the current hospital. The tower has remained standing (although a ruin), still known by that family's name. Le Jardin de Ville (the city park covering 30,400 square meters) is a legacy of the family Becquart-Castelbon, and retains trees hundreds of years old and many feet thick. The town hall sits at garden's entrance.
L'église Saint-Pierre dates from the ninth century, one of the oldest structures in the town, one of a few traces of the medieval past of the town (the tower Barral, and the district Sermorens). Built at the foot of a hill already occupied in Gallo-Roman times, it rests on the foundations of a manorial chapel dating from the Carolingian period. As a parish church it now had a belfry-porch. In the fifteenth century it was modified by the addition of five chapels (Gothic-style annexes), enlarged again in 1826, 1921 and 1927. The simplicity of the interior, however, remains still visible because of modern renovations (1965). Several paintings adorn the alter and decorate the interior.
Voiron is about 18 miles north and west of Grenoble. It sits astride the main rail line and above the road from Lyon, just before the split at the mountain Vercors, where the River Isère heads south again, towards Romans-sur-Isère and Valance (Drôme) on the Rhône. In ancient times, Salmorungum was a small town for shopkeepers. Today, the Sermorens suburb north of the city reflects the Roman past. http://www.museelacdepaladru.com/actu-semaine-archeo.htm There was also a small oppidum (Roman outpost) whose role was to monitor the movement in the region, particulary that from Les Gorges. It was located approximately on the location of the tower Barral, with a clear view of Gorges de la Morge. It bore the name of Castrum Voroni (one would think the origin of the name of Voiron). http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiron
In contrast, the church of Saint-Bruno is from the nineteenth century, the work of the diocesan architect Alfred Berruyer (1819-1901). His aim was to recreate a neo-Gothic monument reflective of the French cathedrals of the twelfth century. The church, since 1994, has been on the national inventory of historical monuments, its architectural sub-class called « ciment ». The passing of Saint Bruno von Köln (born ca. 1030) is recorded on October 6, 1101. St. Bruno was born to the Hartenfaust family in about 1055. He was an instructor in theology at the Cathedral School in Reims France) and later the director of the school. After 1080 he became a hermit. He founded the Carthusian Order, embracing a life of poverty, manual work, prayer and the transcription of religious manuscripts. The order was founded while Bruno was living in isolation northwest of Voiron and north of Grenoble. His feast day is October 6th. He was never formally canonized due to the reluctance of the Carthusian order to accept public honors, but Pope Clement X designated his feast day as a double feast and he is regarded as a saint. In later years, the Order, which took hold in southern France, fell out of favor.