I often write about PJ’s adventures in the high galleries of the cathedrals and churches that we shoot because I am unable to climb to those areas. Well, that may change next year (fingers-crossed) because I just underwent surgery for a complete knee replacement. I am finally back home from the hospital and can start posting again.
Our post today will be about one of the most eccentric churches we have ever photographed, Notre Dame-de-Bon-Secours in Guingamp. Guingamp is a town in the Côtes-d’Armor in the extreme west of Brittany.
The basilica is a strange amalgam of Romanesque, Gothic and even Baroque elements all piled atop one another but somehow maintaining a sense of proportion and balance. Part of the reason is, of course, the repairs of the inevitable damage done over the years – a transept tower collapsed in the 16th Century and required rebuilding, the French Revolution took its toll after the church was decommissioned, and the American army severely damaged the south transept with artillery when there were false reports of German soldiers in the church tower.
The most interesting thing about the church, however, is that it preserves the medieval tendency for builders to “wrap” the new around the old. In this case, the old Romanesque church was enlarged to make a new Gothic church, but several of the Romanesque elements are completely preserved.
In this shot of the crossing, it is possible to see the Romanesque columns topped with double ogive Gothic arches. In the distance we can see the interesting tribune level in the nave.
Flying buttresses span the interior space from the newer outer walls into the nave arches.
The original Romanesque crossing can be seen from the Gothic nave. The chevet was modified in the second half of the fifteenth century. The apse was substantially enlarged and the chevet is now a flat wall with an altar at the far eastern end.
In this next shot it is possible to see the warren of columns, spanning arches, and connecting walls that make up this eccentric space.
The church features a well-known vierge noire, Notre Dame de Bon Secours (“Our Lady of Good Help”) that has protected mariners in the region for centuries.
We were fascinated by the strange beauty of Notre Dame-de-Bon-Secours. It is still very much a living church with a congregation of the faithful who appreciate the charms of this basilica.