Visiting the neo-Romanesque Sacred Heart Church, Luxembourg City: an imposing solidity overlooking the Pétrusse Valley

Flag of Luxembourg
Flag of Luxembourg | Source
Sacred Heart Church, Luxembourg City
Sacred Heart Church, Luxembourg City | Source
1916 drawing of Maastricht Basilica
1916 drawing of Maastricht Basilica | Source
Nicolas Petit (1876-1953), from: P. Gilbert 1986: Luxembourg. La capitale et ses architectes. Publ. de la section des arts et des lettres de l'Institut grand-ducal.
Nicolas Petit (1876-1953), from: P. Gilbert 1986: Luxembourg. La capitale et ses architectes. Publ. de la section des arts et des lettres de l'Institut grand-ducal. | Source

Situated at a prime location

This church building at a prime location in Luxembourg City was complete for opening in 1936, but its origins in the neighbourhood (the Gare - Railroad Station - suburb of the Grand Duchy's capital) go back to 1896. In that year, a group of local residents started plans for a new church building in this area, into which the capital was increasingly encroaching. Its immediate locality was known as the Plateau Bourbon.

The architect for the building was Nicolas Petit (1876-1953); interestingly, he was not a simply a well known architect in private practice but the City Architect for Luxembourg's capital (1).

Known as the Sacred Heart Church (Létzebuergesch: Häerz-Jesu-Kierch; French: Eglise du Sacré-Cœur; German: Herz-Jesu-Kirche), its design is characterized by simplicity, within a neo-Romanesque style. The frequency of rounded arching, in varying sizes, bear testimony to the stylistic influence upon the architect. The structure effuses an immense sense of solidity; among its crowning features is its tall, conspicous tower.

A significant aspect to the design of its tower is its wide proportions. This is somewhat suggestive of Medieval Imperial design known as a Westwork. (By way of comparison, I have also supplied a photo of a drawing of Maastricht Cathedral, which is a clear example of a Westwork.) A Westwork can thus incorporate a seemingly fortified element, with high windows, projecting a strong sense that the building is a well defended political and administrative centre as well as a spiritual sanctuary. Stated differently, such a design recalls an era when the Roman Catholic Church fulfilled a strongly temporal rôle.

The interior of the church building is known for its many examples of religious art. Its pipe organ is by Georges Haupt, of Lintgen.

The structure is located at 5, rue Dicks, overlooking the Pétrusse Valley, and close to the historic, former ARBED building in Luxembourg City.

A sobering reflection: only a few years after the Häerz-Jesu-Kierch was opened, just as Luxembourg's citizens were becoming accustomed to the place of its imposing lines in the capital's built environment, the dark years of Nazi German occupation occurred, (Interestingly, after Liberation at the end of World War Two, Nicolas Petit returned for a short while to his former post of City Architect.)

January 8, 2014

Note

(1) Other works by Architect Petit include the Jousefskierch in Luxembourg City and various school buildings.

Further architectural details may be accessed at http://www.sacre-coeur.lu/ (in French and German).

Also worth seeing

In Luxembourg City itself, which is rich in architectural heritage, its numerous visitor attractions include: the Cathedral; the former ARBED building (a short distance from the Häerz-Jesu-Kierch); the Grand Ducal Palace; the Chamber of Deputies building; the towered, former State Savings Bank building at place de Metz (also a short, walking distance from the Häerz-Jesu-Kierch) where General Omar Bradley had his headquarters at the end of World War Two; the Pont Adolphe over the picturesque Pétrusse Valley; Place Guillaume II ; the Gelle Fra monument; the Saint-Quirin chapel; the monumental railroad station; and many others.

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How to get there: From Luxembourg Airport (Aéroport de Luxembourg), at Findel, car rental is available. For North American travellers who make the London, England area their touring base, airlines flying to Luxembourg include Luxair (from London Heathrow Airport and London City Airport) and CityJet (from London City Airport). You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to consult appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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