Many of the old buildings of St. Jacques upon close scrutiny show one particularity: soapstone truncated cones used as building material or as paving in front. Have you ever wondered why?
These are the remains of the processing of green stone (serpentinites, prasinites, amphibolites) obtained from the Ayas quarries and used since the 4th century. A.D. for the manufacture of pots, stoves, capitals, sculptures, tombstones, stoups, mortars, window frames, etc. Very original is the circular stoup walled inside the chapel of St. Jacques, decorated with Romanesque motifs.
The inhabitants of the Val d'Ayas extracted a hard soapstone from the quarries of Verra, Vascoccia and Ruec, from which they obtained blocks of coarse-grained chloritoschist, easily recognizable by their grey-green streaks. The peculiarity of these rocks is that they are easily workable as soon as they are extracted and harden only afterwards, that they keep the heat for a long time and do not give any flavor to food.
Various smaller and smaller containers were obtained from a single block on the hydraulic lathe until the carrots were left as waste which, piled up in large quantities, were then also used as support for the chimneys throughout the valley (some beautiful ones are found in Magnéaz ) and more recently as borders for flowerbeds (Frachey), decoration of walls and candle holders.
Every summer, in the second half of August, the Soapstone Festival is held in Saint Jacques. A day dedicated to this ancient tradition with guided tours of archaeological excavations and creative workshops.