In this paper we review and discuss, in a synthetic historical way, the main results obtained on Alpine metamorphism in the western Alps. First, we describe the finite metamorphic architecture of the western Alps and discuss its relationships with subduction and collision processes. Second, we portray the progressive metamorphic evolution through time and space with the presentation of 5 metamorphic maps corresponding to critical orogenic periods, namely 85-65 Ma, 60-50 Ma, 48-40 Ma, 38-33 Ma and 30-20 Ma. We underline the lack of temporal data on high-pressure/low-temperature metamorphic rocks as well as the severe uncertainties on the sizes of rock units that have recorded the same metamorphic history (i.e. coherent P-T-t/deformation trajectories). We discuss the role of subduction-driven metamorphism in ocean-derived protoliths and the conflicting models that account for the diachrony of continental subductions in the western Alps.