Three Churches You Shouldn’t Miss

Many of the most visited places around the world are home to a grand cathedral that towers over the city and welcomes thousands of visitors each year. They are often quite awe-inspiring with their lofty arches, stained glass windows, and flying buttresses. While I love these magnificent cathedrals as much as the next person, and rarely miss a chance to visit one, I also think the smaller churches and chapels shouldn’t be overlooked. In their own unique ways they are often just as beautiful and charming as their grander cathedral neighbors.

Today I’d like to share with you three such churches or chapels that are well worth a visit during your travels.

 Chapelle Notre-Dame des Flots

Chapelle Notre-Dame des Flots

Location: rue Charles Alexandre Lesueur 76310 Sainte-Adresse {about 3 km northwest of Le Havre}

Denomination: Catholic

Website: Le Havre Tourism {I found several sites, but they are all in French, including this one}

Built in 1859 in a Gothic style, the Chapelle Notre-Dame des Flots {Our Lady of the Waves}, sits atop a cliff in Sainte-Adresse overlooking the sea with its placement symbolizing the reason for its being- to protect those on voyages at sea. Much of the funds to build the chapel were donated by 60 individuals and six family groups from the time with the promise that their names would be inscribed on a painting in the sacristy.

The chapel isn’t very big but what space there is is filled with paintings, statues, inscriptions of thanks, and ship models given as offerings reflecting the faith and hope of seafarers and their families. Unfortunately the years have not been kind to Chapelle Notre-Dame des Flots and it has developed cracks in the walls that have weakened the structure and altered the painted murals. Since 2013 a restoration project has been underway.

While the chapel itself is full of charm and shows the signs of being well loved by the community, I found the gardens surrounding it to be it’s best feature. They were filled with flowers of all types,pretty arbors, little fountains, and benches where one could sit and enjoy a summer day and the view out over the cliff. This wasn’t a site that was on my list of places to visit while I was in Le Havre that summer, and could have easily been missed,  so I’m very glad my colleagues thought of it to visit on our little tour of the city one day at lunch.

 

Chapelle Notre-Dame des Flots


 

 L’église Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc

Eglise Sainte Jeanne-d'Arc

Location: Place du Vieux-Marché, 76000 Rouen, France

Denomination: Catholic

Website: Rouen Tourism

Eglise Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc was built in 1979, in the center of the ancient market in Rouen, at the site where Joan of Arc was burned alive at the stake in 1431. It was designed by Louis Arretche in a very modern way with historical remnants from a 16th century church. Some say the curves that make up the design are meant to symbolize the flames that consumed Joan of Arc and other sources say it is meant to look like an overturned ship {I definitely see its ship-like characteristics}. It is very simple inside with a ceiling made of wood and beautiful stained glass windows all along one wall. The windows come from the Church of Saint Vincent that was originally located close by in Rouen but is now in ruins. It was destroyed in WWII but thankfully the windows had been removed and stored for safe keeping so they are now being enjoyed again.

I don’t know much about the story of Joan of Arc but the colleague I was traveling with this day suggested we visit this church at the end of our day in Rouen. Oh my those windows! Pictures just do not do them justice so if you ever find yourself in Rouen this church is well worth popping into for a little visit.

View of the ceiling
View of the ceiling

 

St. George’s Memorial Church

I’ve saved my favourite for last…

St. George's Memorial Church

Location: Elverdingsestraat 1- B8900 Ieper, Belgium

Denomination: Anglican Church within the Church of England’s diocese in Europe

WebsiteSt. George’s Memorial Church’s 

St. George’s Memorial Church is one of two great memorials in Ieper to the fallen soldiers of WWI {the other is Menin Gate} and sees thousands of visitors a year as people visit the WWI sites of the Ypres Salient battlefields. The Ypres League started the movement to build this church in 1920 and they contacted Sir Reginald Blomfield {designer of the Cross of Sacrifice for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission} to design the church. When his plans were complete in 1927 he had designed a simple space that could hold 200 people with the furnishings being provided by the families of fallen soldiers. Almost every item in the church from the windows, banners, plaques, chairs, etc. is a permanent memorial to a soldier who gave his life in France or Flanders. During WWI those valuable and irreplaceable items were cared for by the citizens of Ypres or stored in safes. Thankfully the church was not destroyed during this war, although it did sustain some exterior damage from the bombs.

I was absolutely taken with this church. I loved the simplicity of both the exterior and interior and the work that has gone into every single one of the needlepoint cushions on the chairs for the congregation. They are stitched and donated by volunteers from different organisations for different regiments of the military from many countries. The walls are also lined with many plaques and when we visited a gentleman was working to put some more new plaques on the wall. It’s getting harder and harder for him to find space as schools and other organisations request a plaque be added to the wall in memory of a loved one or particular regiments.

 

St. George's Memorial Church, Ypres
View from the alter looking towards the back of the church.

 

2 Comments

  • I love exploring churches, chapels, cathedrals, and/or pretty much any religious building! They’re normally the best way to get a feel for the historical architecture of the area and there’s always a story – or more – to go along with them. I’m a bit partial to the small ones myself, so I think these suggestions are great! Will certainly put them on the list when I make it nearby :)

    • So glad you liked them! You’re right about the stories too. I think my favourites are the stories of towns coming together to rebuild their church after natural disasters and wars. Poor old Rouen Cathedral has been hit by lightning, bombed during WWII, and had a turret blown off {and into the church} as recently as 1999, but they keep repairing it for generation after generation to visit and worship there. Another great church to visit, though certainly not small like today’s selections!

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