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Visiting the Church of Saint-Michel at Quesnoy-sur-Deûle, France: Gothic structure by Charles Leroy, rebuilt in 1932
Gothic arching, pinnacles and flying buttresses
The structure visible today of Saint-Michel church in Quesnoy-sur-Deûle, in France's Nord department, dates from 1932. Its predecessor dated from the 19th century, was the work of French architect Charles Leroy (1816-1879)(1). The town of Quesnoy-sur-Deûle was heavily damaged during World War One and the Church of Saint-Michel was destroyed; its post-war rebuilding thus took several years to accomplish: such was the extent of reconstruction that had to occur especially in northern France after World War One.
Executed in Gothic style, we thus see at the building's exterior a profusion in pointed arching, flying buttresses, and conspicuous pinnacles, features particularly identified with the style, which was especially revived in the 19th century after its Medieval heyday (2). In the interior of the building, the Gothic arching is also readily visible from the nave.
The fate of the Church of Saint-Michel during World War One was tied to the fact that the Western Front passed through the immediately surrounding district, lying close to the Belgian border, hotly disputed by the military machines of both sides.
Many years ago I stayed within walking distance of this building, just outside Quesnoy-sur-Deûle, in this now very peaceful area, and it is certainly the case that this building dominates the town's skyline.
The town takes its name from the Deûle river, on which it is situated. The form Quesnoy-sur-Deûle is used in order to differentiate it from the town of Le Quesnoy, also in France's Nord department.
Quesnoy-sur-Deûle is located in the Lille arrondissement of the Nord department. Lille itself forms part of a conurbation which stretches northward over the Belgian border, and its surrounding area is often thought of a being high urbanized. However, to the north-west of the Lille arrondissement, there is a rural area which extends to the Lys river marking part of the border with Belgium, and it is here that Quesnoy-sur-Deûle is situated. Rather regrettably, maybe, it is an area of northern France which is not well known to visitors.
January 15, 2015
(1) Noted especially for his work in neo-Gothic Revival style, Architect Leroy specialized in church buildings and was responsible for the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille, Lille, as well as many other buildings in France's Nord department. Leroy has been compared with his contemporary architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879). He taught architecture at Tourcoing; and his award-winning work was very widely known in his day.
(2) In France, the Medieval Gothic period, which so greatly inspired Gothic Revivalists, is reckoned to be from the 12th until the 15th centuries.
Also worth seeing
In Quesnoy-sur-Deûle itself, there is a neo-Flemish-style Town Hall.
Comines (distance: 9.5 kilometres) Saint-Chrysole church and a nearby bust of Medieval chronicler Philippe de Commynes are 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: 13.1 kilometres) has many compelling visitor attractions; these include 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 Quesnoy-sur-Deûle , 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 SNCF maintains a service between Quesnoy-sur-Deûle and Lille-Flandres station at Lille, with widespread connections. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to 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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