Saint-Hélier church of Beuzeville
Built in the XIIth century then modified in XVIth century it has on the leftside a normand style timber very rare. The bell tower has three bells, the oldest one named georgette-henriette blessed in 1779. In this large sanctuary, 19 glasses of François Decorchemont sparkle.
Beuzeville’s church is dedicaded to Saint Helier who was born at Tongres in Belgium in the first half of the Sixth Century.He was a monk at Nanteuil, on the Contentin peninsula, under Saint Marcou, and then on the Island of Jersey where the town of Saint Helier is name after him.
The church contains a nave with two side aisles and a choir with two side chapels and in the past was surrounded by a graveyard.
The original building was constructed in the Twelfth Century-the west portal of the nave and its door with arched mouldings and buttresses…the exterior windows at the rear of the choir…the vaulted arches…
Rebuilt in the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Centuries, the church has a graceful collection of windows, balustrades, buttresses and gargoyles, and on the east wing half-timbering in a fairly rare Normandy design.The bell-tower containts three bells of which the oldest, called Georgette-Henriette, was cast in 1779.More recently, in the last thirty years, the original plaster and stucco has been removed, leaving bare stone and giving the church the beauty which it has today.The three naves, the sanctuary and the two chapels now evoke the tranquillity of a normandy cloister.
The Stained Glass Windows.
The church is brilliantly lit by its nineteen windows: designed by François DECORCHEMONT, the master glassmaker from nearby Conches, they are like translucent alabaster in a fabulous symphony of colours.
In the choir, the three lancet windows are a mosaic of blues and reds celebrating the Holy Trinity.The intertwined rings symbolise the divine unity, and the Alpha and Omega remind us the God is the beginning and end of all things. Between these windows, over the plain and well-proportioned altar, stands a statue of Christ, carved in oak by an unknown artist in the Seventeenth Century.In the curved arch at the rear of the choir, a fresco of the Pentecost, painted by Jacques Berland, of the school of Velasquez, gives the appearance of a tapestry with its well-balanced, harmonious hues.
The large windows of the Notre Dame chapel, inspired by the Song of Songs and the litany, dazzle with blues, comparable to those of Chartres, amidst lilies, roses, stars, the poetic creation of the mystic East in tribute to the Virgin Mary.
In the chapel on the south side, two windows harmonise with those in the choir and in the Notre Dame chapel. The mission of Joseph evoked in the portrayal of the journey of the Holy Family from Nazareth to Bethlehem, then the flight to Egypt before their return after Hérod’s death, whilst the sacramental window dedicated to the memory of the Reverend Father Sanson, preacher at Notre Dame inParis, commemorates a life spent in the grace of God.
The third window in the chapel, sparkling with life and colour, is in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi and is a magical spectacle of light with azure blues contrasting with purples, golden yellows and greens in a symphony of colours responding to the slightest ray of God.
So the following theme is developed in this chapel:”God gave to the world, under the care of Joseph, the Saviour who brings us the sacraments to unite us with his Father in the wonderful world created for mankind.”
The windows in the south nave display:
1) Saint Peter, the fisher of men, holding a net full of multicoloured fish.
2) Saint Helier, the patron saint of the parish, who suffered martyrdom in the Channel Islands where he preached the gospels.
3) Saint Louis, under the oak tree of justice, the most pious and just King of France, who built the Sainte Chapelle inParis to house the Saviour’s crown of thorns.
4) The image of Saint Joan of Ark, outlined against the blood-red flames of the stake, which becomes incandescent in the rays of the sun. The house where she was born, the Chateau of Chinon, the Cathedral of Reims, the castle keep of Rouen, the Gate of Compiegne, all bear witness to her life, her work and her martyrdom.
Then, in a mosaic of mauves and pinks, the windows to the West show the symbols of the Christian calendar and surround a great window of Angels which should be seen at sunset when a golden light suffuses the stone of the Sanctuary.
Finally, the windows in the north nave commemorate:
1) Father Foucauld, the self sacrificing missionary to the Touaregs of North Africa, is shown against the violet of the mountains of the Hoggard and the gold of the sand-dunes.
2) Saint Genevieve, who love for God did not suppress her love of her country, was the support of the poor andParis against barbarian invasion.
3) Saint Anselme, he became Archbishop of Canterbury, was the Abbot of Bec Hellouin, which was the patronal abbey of the parish up to the revolution.This window, in typicalNormandy colours of greens and yellows, also commemorates Guillaume Popeline, a child of Beuzeville and Abbot of Bec during the Hundred Years War.
4) Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, amongst the churches he founded throughout Asia Minor.
1) North transept altar: Madame Hebert Coeffin, known as the “imagier de Notre-Dame”, sculpted many beautiful religious works. She has depicted Our Lady of All Graces so pure and so gentle that one cannot avoid being moved by the feeling of kindness which she evokes. At her side, the infant Jesus, his outstretched arms already foretelling the Redemption. Mary presents him to the world with tenderness and hope.
2) South transept altar: An equally laudable work is the statue of Saint Joseph where the artist succeeds in the simplicity of a biblical setting. With his hands holding the shoulders of the infant Jesus, who turns his trusting face to him, the carpenter of Nazareh, in his work clothes typical of those portrayed by the painters of the Middle-Ages, envelop him in radiant love.
3) Lower south side: Madame Hebert Coeffin has created the figure of Saint Therese of the child Jesus with the same touching sensitivity. On a great slab of stone, rounded at the base and carved with the tendrils of a cloud, a kneeling Therese holds her outstretched arms towards the beseeching crowds. The sculptress has recreated the strong features, the round cheekbones, the determined chin, of one who, in the silence of the cloister, dedicated her life to penance so that others might be saved.
There are two works of another master sculptor, Auguste Guénot.
Rarely is such an image of the Saviour depicted as in his Gagged Christ. The artist’s sole desire is to emphasis the idea:” Those who do not wish to hear the voice of God gag Him!”
His Saint Anthony of Padua illustrates great moral suffering. On his face is reflected abdication to Providence in a spirit of utter resignation.
The Stoups: (the basins holding holy water).
Gensolli, to whom Sevres owed its fame for many years, due to this thorough knowledge of the techniques of firing, was the inspiration for the precious enamelled basins whose colours enrich the stone.
The baptismal font is a copy of the one at Domremy where Joan of Ark was baptised.It was made with great attention to detail by Boudart and Marcault, local craftsmen who also made the War Memorial and the main altar.
Three canvasses ofMarcel Rocherecall the honest artist “in search of God”:
- An Ascension of the Lord entering into the light of the Trinity.
- The instruments of the Passion.
- A sombre still life “Le crucifix a la miche de pain”, a beautiful study evocative of the daily bread earned each day at a cost of hard labour and pain.
Finally, a canvas by Rene Morere, based on the biblical story of Jesus damning the barren fig-tree.
All year through
An audio guided visit of the master François Decorchemont’s stained-glass at Saint Héliers church at Beuzeville.
MP3 players are available at the tourist office.