[a245] — St Joan's

Eglise Ste Jeanne d'Arc

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Not five blocks away from the Cathedral of Rouen is the very pretty, modern church of Ste Jeanne d'Arc whose outside is in the shape of an upturned Viking longboat.  (You knew that Normandy was populated by Normans, right?  And that 'Norman' is just French shorthand for 'Norseman', right?)  Observe the lozenge panels:  they start at the first full-width horizontal across the bottom and go to the peak.  There's an interesting story about these (12) panels.

During the Second World War there was a church just down the street from this one (St Vincent).  One of the priests had the idea that, being in a war zone and all, it would be a shame if a bullet came through the windows, so they had the panels removed, crated, and stored in a safe place.  Two weeks later the church was bombed flat to the ground ('Elle fut presque entièrement détruite le 31 mai 1944.').  I have saved a pen-and-ink sketch of St.Vincent here.

When this church was being designed in the 1970s it was scaled with those panels in mind.

In many ways this church reminds me of every other modern church I've seen, yet there's something startlingly different about it.  You step down into a small, cozy sanctuary; it seems to wrap itself around you as you enter, to enfold you like it's giving you a welcoming hug.  It's a very plain church until you look up at the glass panels and it hits you: it's not the least bit plain.  It's worth a trip to France to see this.  800 years from now people will still be talking about it.