The Temple of Nature was built in 1795 and represents one of the very first refuges in the Alps, located at 1913m altitude, overlooking the Mer de Glace.
This octagonal shaped building of great historical interest, replaced a rudimentary stone construction which was built by the English gentleman Charles Blair, in order to offer a protection to the first visitors to the Mer de Glace.
The Temple of Nature bore witness to many illustrious visitors during the late 1700′s and early 1800′s before the first hotel was built in the 1840′s. Artists, authors and scientists were inspired by the majesty of the site and not least Mary Shelley, whose visit with Byron in 1816 led to Dr Frankenstein and his monster meeting upon the Mer de Glace! The emperess Josephine de Beauharnais took shelter in the temple in 1810, the emperess Marie-Louise of Austria in 1814, Charles Nodier and Victor Hugo in 1825, Alexandre Dumas is 1832, John Ruskin in 1835, Georges Sand and Franz Lizt in 1836, and so it goes on!
The Temple has now reopened to the public and an innovative optical theatre takes visitors on a trip into the past where they will meet the likes of Forbes (the Scottish geologist), Chateaubriand, Louis Pasteur and Agutte the artist.
Before the Train!
The Montenvers was first visited in 1741 by William Windham and Richard Pocock, 2 Englishman who compare the glacier to a ‘Sea of Ice’, hence the name “Mer de Glace”! This event marks the beginning of tourism in the Alps.
Over 100 years seperate the first mule trail and the project to build a cog railway which finally saw the day in 1909! The magnificent Montenvers hotel and restaurant was built in 1880 and conserves a bygone charm which delights today’s visitors.
In 1885, the site welcomed 12 000 visitors, essentially arriving by mule! At the time 380 guides and mule owners (along with 200 mules) were kept very busy throughout the summer months.
Times change, the glaciers are receding at present, but the majesty of this unique site is still there to inspire us!