Visiting Saint-Chrysole church, Comines, France: remembering a peripatetic Dominican architect
A monk working under multifaceted design influences
After World War One, and the wholesale desctruction wrought in much of Flanders and the Lys Valley of northern France and Belgium, the post-war years brought opportunity for the building of Saint-Chrysole church (French: Eglise Saint-Chrysole) in Comines, in France's Nord department (1). Its original architect was Maurice Storez (1875-1959), however, another architect, Dom Paul Bellot (1876-1944)(2) was also appointed and was subsequently strongly identified with the work.
This quite remarkable frontage to Saint-Chrysole church seems to evidence a highly eclectic combination of styles and influences. With its dome, hexagonal turrets and rustication, neo-Romanesque and neo-Byzantine seem to suggest themselves. But with the abstract patterns above the main entrance, Art Deco seems also to have been an influence, And yet the twin doorways at the main entrance seem to admit Mozarabic influence: echoes of Alhambra seem to be evoked.
Other conspicuous features of the building include the 51 metre bell-tower which stands separately from the main body of the building. Stained glass windows are by M. Hollart.
Architect Dom Bellot was known to prefer working in a combination of reinforced concrete and brick, which we see here. The main building work at Saint-Chrysole church occurred between 1925 and 1929.
This Benedictine monk, also a qualified architect, was known in addition for something else: he was an inveterate traveller. Not only did he design church and religious buildings in France, including this one, a stone's throw from the Belgian border, he also did so in Portugal, and England, and The Netherlands.
And Canada. Indeed, Architect Dom Bellot worked on what is the largest church building in Canada: the Saint-Joseph Oratory (French: Oratoire Saint-Joseph) in Montréal, QC.
I find the Grand'Place area of Comines to be one of the most architecturally interesting areas of northern France, given the existence of striking examples of built environment heritage contained in a small area on the very border of France with Belgium.
January 18, 2014
(1) The Belgian town of Comimes / Komen is adjacent to the French town of the same name, which uses the French spelling of the name only; the two towns are separated by the Lys River, joined by a bridge.
(2) Architect Dom Bellot's career in some ways resembles that of P J H Cuypers, a Dutch architect responsible for many church buildings as well as the famed Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and that city's Central Railroad Station; like Dom Bellot, Architect Cuypers combined his archictural activities with being a monk.
Some sourcing from Wikipedia.
Also worth seeing
In Comines itself, in the garden area next to Saint-Chrysole church a bust of Medieval chronicler Philippe de Commynes is worth seeing, as are a bas-relief by Adolphe Masselot at the foot of the church tower, and the Town Hall (French: Hôtel de ville ), with its impressive belfry.
Lille (distance: 18 kilometres) has many compelling visitor attractions, including the Chamber of Commerce belfry, the City Hall belfry, the former stock exchange building and the General Charles de Gaulle Birthplace Museum, and many others.
How to get there: To Comines-France , Brussels has the nearest large international airport. Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company SNCB maintains a service between Brussels and Comines/Komen, on the Belgian side, which is easily accessible from Comines-France . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to 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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