Church of St. Chrysole, Comines

Beautiful placed at the little borderriver between Belgium and France is the parish church of St. Chrysole. The church is placed in opposit of the town hall, in front of a square, in the middle of the town of Comines, which is divided in a French part and a Belgian part. Multiple members of L'Arche have cooperated at this project and the church is mentioned as the best style-representative of L'Arche. The architecture was designed by Dom Bellot and Maurice Storez. The artwork inside is by François Mes OSB.

 

L'Arche was seeking to make modern art useful for religious purposes. Using materials and technical solutions known at the beginning of the 20th century they constructed religious buildings. They rejected copying old styles: Make something new, continuing the architecture of all ages past!

 

The church is one of the most beautiful examples of L'Arche: Influenced by the Byzantine and Moorish style, but constructed out of concrete and brick. Little pieces of glass are used in the concrete parts of the roofs as decoration.

 

After the first world war the town of Comines was destroyed. It’s medieval “Scheldegotic” church was a ruin. In 1922 the construction of the new st. Chrysole started and building it stopped in 1933. The church was planned to have the form of a Greek cross, with the transepts as long as the nave, but shortage of money influenced the original plans: The transepts have never been build and the church is a little bit lower than the original plans. At the base of the bell-tower is a monument for the victims of the great war (1914-1918).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We visited this church in 2010 and found it in need of restoration. In the interior nets were placed to prevent falling concrete to hit the people inside. The iron in the reinforced concrete was expanding due to moisture, and that was causing the concrete to break apart... In July 2011 the restoration was started, which ended October 2017.  We visited this church every year to monitor the progress. Click here for more detail.

 

 

 

 

 

At the interior the use of concrete is clearly visible.

The skeleton of the construction is made of concrete, bricks are used to fill in the walls, using a mosaic of different colours. The main altar has a canopy of concrete, tracking all attention to the sanctuary. Behind the main altar is a little chapel dedicated to the virgin Mary.

 

Little pieces of glass are used to decorate the altars.

 

The original pulpit was removed about 1970. During the works the pulpit was reinstalled after the original plans of Dom Bellot.. It is also decorated with mosaic.

 

 

 

The stained glass windows of this church are impressive. It is also restored in 2015.

 

The balcony’s of the nave seem to have no purpose. There is no gallery in this church.

 

At the north of the front part is the baptistery. At the south is a chapel with a Pieta-statue, in the lower part of the tower. Both are connected with the church by a small corridor.

 

At the rear of the church a little chapel for services at weekdays is made. It can be entered by a door at the backside of the church.

 

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This church is special in the works of Bellot. The appearance of the church is unique, probably due to the cooperation of many members of L’Arche. The structure of the church is mostly designed by Maurice Storez. The decoration is the work of Bellot: The windows, the altars, chandeliers, using multiple colours of brick to decorate the walls... It is clearly modern religious art according to the intention of Bellot. The church is known as the best example of L'Arche.

 

 

Photo's: A.A.Lukassen and A.W.A. Lukassen, 2015-2018