Tim, I understand your temptation to look at places that have captured current attention due to books and movies, etc. But, I feel that the following is more applicable to our motives. It is from another post of mine on another site. Please persue the folowing links and see if you still prefer the other French site?
The word Zion or Sion is well mentioned in the Bible, and its location is just as likely to have been moved in place as well as in time, thus I send this possibility for your inspection. Note Zion/Sion has at times been considered as a Holy place, and a fortress! See if the following drawings and photographs do not fit the Biblical descriptions?
On this site you will see drawings of the area by Sebastion Munster, ca. 1550-1550!
"In the 16th Century church of St. Theodule’s, our guide produced a key and beckoned us to follow her down a set of stairs which led into a dark basement. After activating the light timers, we found ourselves transported back in time to 450 AD. Before us lay ancient tombs and Roman baths complete with a fridgidarium and aqueducts inclined to the Sion canal. Discovered during archaeological digs in 1966, the baths were either used by the public or some important person in Sion." Here we have knowledge that the area had running water, which of course is necessary for certain religious services. Ron
"The next day, having been intrigued by the scenery we had seen during our airborne adventure, we took a drive south towards the Alps along the Val d’Herens. The winding road cut through steeply wooded hillsides past the Pyramides d’Euseigne, an outcropping of pointed crags each crowned with a delicately balanced dark boulder – a bizarre leftover from glacial moraines."
Here we have natural "pillars", the perfect place for St. Simeon Stylites to live! Ron
From the last site are these words;
"Of more interest, though, is the valley branching southeast from Sion. This is the Val d’Hérens, a world apart even from the main valley, dotted with mountain farms and high-altitude hamlets, and giving fascinating glimpses of traditional rural life. Even people from Sion can barely understand the thick valley patois, which rings with odd guttural sounds and strikes city folk as being a little like Arabic. Unsubstantiated supposition brings out the idea that the generally dark-skinned, dark-eyed people of the Val d’Hérens may somehow be descended from the conquering Saracen armies who invaded the valley in the eighth century. Having planted that idea, Sédunois will then tell you about the people of Isérables, a town west of Sion, who have had the nickname of Les Bedjuis for as long as anyone can remember – and “bedjuis” is remarkably close to “bedouin”, Arabic for “people of the desert”. The Allalinhorn peak near Saas-Fee is another clue, apparently stemming somehow from the Arabic word for God (Allah).
One of the sights of the valley can be found near the village of Euseigne, where the road passes beneath the Pyramides d’Euseigne, an extremely bizarre geological outcrop of glacial moraines. Whereas erosion flattened the area all around, these stone jags were protected from smoothing by hard rock caps. Today, they’re hard to believe – a wall of unnaturally pointed stalagmites in the open wooded valley, each crag crowned by a dark boulder balanced on a needle point." Again, "pillars" Ron
From another site are these words; "The Roman Catholic diocese of Sion is the oldest in Switzerland and one of the oldest north of the Alps."
This area is also noted for its vinyards, which are cultivated on man made terraces, which are described as a major distinctive feature of Jerusalem! As you noticed from the drawings and photos, this would have been an easily defenceable area.
From another site;
"One of the oldest towns in Switzerland, known since Neolithic times, Sion stretches over a plateau at the foot of two hills crowned by the ancient Valere and Tourbillion castles. The city was built by Julius Caesar's soldiers on the ruins of a Celtic settlement. Some of the oldest signs of Roman presence here can be seen in the 16th-century Church of St. Theodule, the patron of the city. The church's basement houses the remains of some Roman baths and an ancient cemetery, which was created later, after the Romans left in 450 AD. Both the tombs and the baths were discovered during restoration work in 20th century.
Individual visits to the basements are forbidden, and there are just two pairs of keys to keep all unwanted guests out: one belongs to the priest and the other is at the city tourist office. The guide will tell you wonders about the quality of the construction works in the baths - the Roman pipes that are left still don't leak - and point to the bones protruding from the petrifactions in several places. The sight can be discomfiting, and there was much debate about such a display being ethical before it was decided to allow visitors to the basement.
Hiring a guide is a very good idea in Sion, as they can tell you so much more than any guidebook. Just round the corner from St. Theodule's, for example, they will show you a modest house with green shutters. Although the house is unmarked, it answers the question of why there are so many modern buildings in such an old city.
According to a local legend, a resident of that house - a housewife whose name and age are unknown - was responsible for an enormous fire in 1788 that destroyed a good half of the town, including most of the magnificent Tourbillon castle. The lady was just listening to music, thinking back to her wedding, and forgot about the bowl with boiling oil in the kitchen. A strong wind fanned the flames, and the large leather bags from the firefighters' modest arsenal were also soon lost in the fire.
But the contours of Tourbillion still make for a most romantic view, especially when observed from the opposite hill. On that hill, Valere Castle, built in 1047, boasts the oldest playable organ in the world and amazing acoustics in its cathedral. Since 1969, the cathedral has hosted an international historical organ festival, with concerts held on seven Saturdays from mid-July to the end of August that emphasize less well-known organ masterpieces. The gothic organ, which dates from 1390, has a very special, warm, light and mild sound. Many of its blowers are original. Olga Ranguelov, a Russian emigree born in Paris, has recordings of some of the world's greatest organists playing the instrument in her music shop L'Oiseau de Feu at 4 rue des Chateaux on the way to Valere castle.
In the city, don't miss the spectacular Sorceress' Tower. Once a part of defensive constructions - and subsequently a torture-chamber - these two medieval rotund towers with spiky roofs, the smaller one adjacent as if huddling closer to the bigger one, now house temporary art exhibitions. Another must-see is the 1505 house of Georges Supersaxo, a powerful politician and rival of Cardinal Mathew Schiner. Supersaxo favored the French as European power, whereas Schiner preferred a union between Rome - i.e., the Pope - and the German empire. The enmity between the two, who accused each other of all sorts of mortal sins, resulted in the death of 100,000 people in battle and took a Pope to resolve. Mocking, grotesque carved images of the cardinal - and some parts of his body - can be found in various places around the house. Part of the building of Supersaxo, who fathered 23 children, is used as a marriage-registration office.
There is almost an excess of full-day and half-day trip ideas in Sion. They include St. Bernard, known for its monastery-based center for rescue dogs of the same name, and Saillon, the second-biggest thermal resort in Switzerland. Leaflets with details and directions are distributed in most local hotels. The range of attractions around the city is even wide enough to include the largest underground lake in Europe. Located in the village of St. Leonard, the lake is open from March 15 through Nov. 1 every year.
The cave was known to locals since at least the beginning of the 20th century but specialists discovered it only after an earthquake in 1946 , when it was full of water. Three years later, the cave welcomed its first visitors.
Rowing through the 6,000-square-meter lake in the seeming absolute silence, and as the guide tells you there there is no life in the cave, apart from a few bats, it is a surprise to hear a clear splash behind the boat. It was caused by one of about 30 trout, deliberately placed here by local staff. The staff have a point: the trout make this chilly cave a bit more cheerful."
The above sites point to several differing thoughts. Could this area be the origins of Mt. Zion of the Bible? Could there have been a "Priory of Sion" in this area? Did the so called Sarracens have a part in this? Could the naturally occuring "pillars of stone" that we see in the area have any significance? How about the nearby underground lake? Have you ever heard of George Supersaxo?
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.