On Valère, Sion's lower hill, the Église-Forteresse de Valère is a striking example of sacred and secular power combined—reflective of the Church's heyday, when it often subjugated rather than served its parishioners. Built on Roman foundations, the massive stone walls enclose both the château and the 11th-century Église Notre-Dame de Valère (Church of Our Lady of Valère). This structure stands in a relatively raw form, rare in Switzerland, where monuments are often restored to perfection. Over the engaging Romanesque carvings, 16th-century fresco fragments, and 17th-century stalls painted with scenes of the Passion, is a rare organ, with a cabinet painted with two fine medieval Christian scenes. Dating from the 14th century, it's the oldest playable organ in the world (though it doesn't appear old, as it was restored in 2005), and an annual organ festival celebrates its musical virtues.
The château complex also houses the Musée d'Histoire (History Museum),
which displays a wide array of medieval sacristy chests and religious artifacts. Expanded exhibits trace daily life and advances in the canton from these early centuries to the present day. Explanations are in three languages, including English. To reach the museum and church, you have to trek up uneven stone walkways and steep staircases, but you won't regret it.