Visiting, Dieppe, France and its church of Saint Jacques: a building with 12th century origins and a tumultuous history
Waves of buttresses and destruction
Canadians will remember how Dieppe is etched on their national history from events in living memory, when many hundreds of Canadians were lost in the famous (or infamous) Dieppe raid in 1942.
But the town of Dieppe has for centuries seen a no less tumultuous history.
The church of Saint Jacques of Dieppe (French: Eglise Saint-Jacques de Dieppe ) is a cathedral-sized edifice with its origins in the 12th century and completed in the 16th century. The north and south transepts date from the 12th century (1), the choir and the nave from the 13th, and the main doorway and the tower from the 14th. Some of the interior artwork was sponsored by local shipping magnate Jehan Ango (1480-1551). The building is particularly noted for its examples of stone tracery and flying buttresses.
In 1562 the interior of the church was ransacked by Protestants; for its time, this kind of event was not unusual in France and the Low Countries.
In 1694, an English fleet bombarded the town and the church of Saint Jacques suffered further damage. On this occasion, about 2000 houses in Dieppe were laid to waste; and even today effects of the bombardment may still be seen on the building.
Then, at the end of the 18th century, French Revolutionaries saw fit to 'consecrate' the church building for uses of their own.
The structure is described as showing a combination of Gothic and flamboyant Renaissance styles. The architectural and historical distinctives of the building have long been noted: it was been classified in France as a monument as long ago as 1840.
Dieppe is situated in France's Seine-Maritime department, in the region of Upper Normandy (French: Haute-Normandie ).
(1) It is known, however, that an earlier church building stood on the site of what is now the church of Saint Jacques.
Also worth seeing
In Dieppe itself, its clifftop castle is a museum. At the foot of the castle is a memorial to Canadians who perished in the Dieppe Raid, 1942. The café des Tribunaux traditionally attracted artists and writers. A regular ferry serving a crossing to Newhaven, England, brings many visitors to the town's port.
Varengeville-sur-Mer (distance: 12 kilometres) has an historic house which belonged to Jehan Ango (see above).
How to get there: Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), from where car rental is available (distance from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport to Dieppe : 214 kilometres). The French railroad company SNCF maintains a service between Paris (Gare Saint-Lazare ) and Dieppe. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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