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1.8.03

Field Trip!

This article (Notre-Dame-de-Toute-Grâce, la merveille, by Hervé de Saint-Hilaire) in the August 2, 2003, edition of Le Figaro brought to my attention this very interesting church in the town of Assy. This place is in Haute-Savoie, in view of the Mont-Blanc range, meaning that I have been pretty close to it in both France and Switzerland and still never heard of it. The article has only one picture, showing the strange, colorful mosaic by Fernand Léger on the church's façade. However, the article describes the other decorations, including windows by Rouault and Chagall, a tapestry by Jean Lurçat on the battle of the woman and the dragon from Apocalypse 12, a painting of St. Francis de Sales by Bonnard, an interior mosaic by Matisse, and the decoration of the altar of the Blessed Sacrament by Braque. (You can see pictures of most of the works described in the article here, or read this other article on Notre-Dame-de-Toute-Grâce.) Jacques Lipchitz also made a sculpture called Notre-Dame-de-Liesse for Assy (other versions of this sculpture are found around the world). How has this church not registered on my radar before now? Sadly, the reason that Notre-Dame-de-Toute-Grâce is now getting this press is that an art historian named Jacques Franck is concerned about rumors that the plateau where the church (and not much else) is located is "under consideration for development" by the local authorities, and we all know what that means.

The church was the brain-child of a young priest from northern France who was healed of tuberculosis while in a sanatorium in Haute-Savoie, and he had it designed and built by Maurice Novarina starting in 1938. The sanctuary was consecrated in 1950, and the new rector began to solicit artistic contributions, not only from professed Catholics like Rouault but all the greats of the time. Some, like Picasso, refused but most accepted. Another place on my mental list of sacred sites decorated by "modern artists." (Note that the church has an official site, which does not appear to be functioning correctly at the time of this writing.)

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