The important, harmonious neoclassical church in Belfaux is a place of pilgrimage. Its 13th century crucifix emerged from a fire miraculously unscathed.
In around 1470, the village's primitive church caught fire. Only the 13th century wooden crucifix was saved, "completely unscathed in the midst and above the flaming embers". The bishop of Lausanne recognised the miracle and wrote a deed in Latin to attest to it. The cross holds relics, identified as dating from the period of Christ and the first Christians.
The miracle attracts an influx of pilgrims who come to pray for healing. In the 17th century, shops selling devotional objects even sprung up around the church. Worshippers walked from Fribourg carrying enormous crosses as a sign of penitence. In the 19th century, pilgrimages diminished under the influence of rationalist ideas and anti-clerical sentiment.
The current church, by the architect Fidel Leimbacher, dates from the 1850s. It opens with a majestic portico with a statue of Saint Etienne, the patron saint of the parish, sculpted in 1902 by A. Regazzoni from Tessin.
The impression of grandeur continues on the inside, where eight fluted columns punctuate the area. The monumental crucifix is located at the choir entrance, to the right. A stained-glass window by Henri Broillet (1920) recalls the recognition of this miracle. Large paintings by Dominik Annen (1876) adorn the choir, occupied by stalls from 1850. Two paintings by Gottfried Locher (18th century) decorate the end of the nave.
Next to the church, a public park was opened in 2013 on the site of an old cemetery. Its designers wanted it to be welcoming, simple and generous, but also respectful of the history of the location, imbued with meaning and symbolism.
The organ, with its beautiful case, was inaugurated in 1880. Its installation required the gallery, constructed a few years earlier, to be reinforced with narrow metal columns that contrast with the powerful pillars in the nave.