The Valère basilica is a fortified church situated on a hill and faces the Château de Tourbillon, located on the opposite hill.
The Diocese was founded in Octodurum, now called Martigny in the early 4th century. In 589 the bishop, St. Heliodorus, transferred the see to Sion, as Octodurum was frequently endangered by the inundations of the Rhone and the Drance. Very little is known about the early Bishops and the early churches in Sion. However, in the late 10th century the last King of Upper Burgundy Rudolph III, granted the County of Valais to Bishop Hugo (998–1017). The combination of spiritual and secular power made the Prince-Bishops the most powerful nobles in the Upper Rhone valley. Sion became the political and religious center of the region. By the 12th century they began building impressive churches and castles in Sion to represent their power and administer their estates. Valère, as the residence of the cathedral chapter in Sion, was one-third of the administrative center of the powerful Diocese of Sion. In the 12th century the Cathedral Notre Dame de Sion (du Glarier) was built in the town below Valère hill. Glarier Cathedral became the seat of the Diocese of Sion, while the Prince-Bishop of Sion lived in Tourbillon Castle.
The name Valère is first mentioned in 1049 as the site of the cathedral chapter in Sion. The first parts of the church were built between 1100 and 1130 in the Romanesque style. The next construction phase began after 1130 and included the semi-circular apse, the walls and windows and a roof. The third phase saw the church expand and the style changed to the new Gothic style. Between 1235 and 1267 the nave expanded and was flanked with two aisles. During the 13th century, the choir was covered with a Gothic ribbed vault and a rood screen was installed to separate the chancel from the nave. The famous organ was installed around 1430–1435 and other than a modification in the 1700s is essentially unchanged. The murals date from about 1435 as well. The Gothic marble statue of the Madonna with the baby Jesus was added in the 15th century over the high altar. The current choir stalls were added in the mid-17th century.
The church obtained the rank of minor basilica at the time of the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1984.
The organ on the west side of the Valère basilica, believed to have been built in 1435, is one of the oldest functioning in the world. It was probably brought to the church by Guillaume de Rarogne, who eventually ended up as the bishop of Sion.References:
Steinvikholm Castle is an island fortress built between 1525 to 1532 by Norway's last Catholic archbishop, Olav Engelbrektsson. Steinvikholm castle became the most powerful fortification by the time it was built, and it is the largest construction raised in the Norwegian Middle Ages.
The castle occupies about half of the land on the rocky island. The absence of a spring meant that fresh water had to be brought from the mainland. A wooden bridge served as the only way to the island other than boat. Although the castle design was common across Europe in 1525, its medieval design was becoming obsolete because of the improved siege firepower offered by gunpowder and cannons.
The castle was constructed after Olav Engelbrektsson returned from a meeting with the Pope in Rome, presumably in anticipation of impending military-religious conflict. As Archbishop Engelbrektsson's resistance to the encroachment of Danish rule escalated, first with Frederick I of Denmark and his successor Christian III of Denmark, Steinvikholm Castle and Nidarholm Abbey became the Catholic Church's military strongholds in Norway. In April 1537, the Danish-Norwegian Reformation succeeded in driving the archbishop from the castle into exile in Lier in the Netherlands (now in Belgium), where he died on 7 February 1538. At the castle the archbishop left behind St. Olav's shrine and other treasures from Nidaros Cathedral (Trondheim). The original coffin containing St. Olav's body remained at Steinvikholm until it was returned to Nidaros Cathedral in 1564. Since 1568 St. Olav's grave in Nidaros has been unknown.
From the 17th to 19th century, the island was used as a quarry and some of its masonry was sold and removed from the site. This activity was condoned by the Danish-Norwegian authorities as a way of eliminating a monument to the opposition of the Danish–Norwegian Union.
Steinvikholm fort is owned and operated today by The society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments. The island has been the site of the midnight opera which details the life and struggles of the archbishop. The opera is held in August annually. The opera is organized by Steinvikholm Musikkteater since the beginning in 1993.