Particularly hit by the war, the Sud-Artois has seen its villages completely destroyed after the Great War. Nevertheless, the transformation of the pastoral landscapes into an absolute lunar desert had not taken away the people’s motivation to go back to the life they had once left.
The churches, places of worship, were no exception and each village was allowed to decide whether the reconstruction would be based on the identical style or on a more innovative one.
You will discover, through the different steps of this tour, the churches of the villages which decided to rebuild in a more modern way, in harmony with the architectural style of the 1920-1930’s: The Art Deco.
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Saint Nicolas’ church in Bapaume, of which the beginnings go back to the 11th century, is an architectural example of the different styles of the Reconstruction which were admired at the time.
The first traces of Saint Nicolas’ church in Bapaume go back to the 11th century and more precisely to the year 1080. Destroyed, then rebuilt in 1410, the church underwent two more reconstructions: one in 1546 and the last one, more recently, in 1924.
This vast neo-gothic style sanctuary, which was built from 1924 to 1929 by the architect Eugène Bidard, replaces the original beautiful 16th century monument, razed to the ground during the First World War. The dean of the parish, Mr Grégoire Ledoux, placed an order in 1933 to J. Benoît, concerning the stained-glass windows. The installation of the windows took place in the course of the following year. The décor of the stained-glass windows was finished after the Second World War by Benoît Frères in 1946 and 1955. The work on the windows was completed by another local artist, Lucien Langlet.
The stained-glass windows of the chancel illustrate the mysteries of Incarnation and Redemption, whereas those of the Notre-Dame de Pitié chapel are about the Virgin’s sufferings.
If you wish to admire the stained-glass windows, the church is open every Friday morning, at the same time as the market, rue de Douai.
Saint Pierre’s Church of Sapignies is the product of the imagination of an architect from Lille, holder of the Prix de Rome: Alphonse Stevens. This eclectic construction associates a chancel and a nave of a neo-Norman style with a porch decorated with female figures of Egyptian inspiration. Added to this, there is a tower confined with watchtowers, a modernised version of the sentries that were present on the fortified castles from the Middle Ages.
The building works started in 1929 and ended in 1932, two years after the installation of the windows, which was entrusted to Francis Chigot for the chancel’s stained-glass windows and to Jules Largillier for those of the nave.
The eight bay windows of the nave are decorated with religious emblems on a background of geometrical shapes. The figurative decoration is only in the chancel where the monumental effigies of the Virgin and of Saint Pierre surround the central scene dedicated to the Crucifixion.
It can be noted that the position of each figure’s head in the medallion at the intersection and the bodies that form a cross are the result of a problem posed by the windows’ structure which had been reinforced by thick transoms and mullions in the shape of a cross, in order to hold the coloured windows.
Saint Pierre’s Church, an edifice found in Bucquoy today, is a brick neogothic building on a concrete framework, with bay windows. It was built from 1925 to 1928 in accordance with the architect Paul Clavier’s plans.
The stained-glass windows were ordered from Desjardins by the parish priest and they were installed in 1928, except for the “remembrance stained-glass window”, which commemorates the soldiers who fell during the Great War, installed the next year. A part of the works, in fact, was financed with the war damage compensation.
The glass decoration is, for the most part, consecrated to the three cycles of the Rosary. This adaptation of the liturgical recitation to the laymen takes up the theme of the Joyful Mysteries, with for example the Visitation and the Nativity; the Sorrowful Mysteries with the Crowning of Thorns, and finally, the Glorious Mysteries with the Ascension and Whitsun.
These stained-glass windows are designed in the traditional way. The lush plant decoration in the chancel’s windows reminds us of the Art Nouveau works of art as well as the moderate use of grey tones.
The church of Douchy-lès-Ayette is dedicated to the region’s evangelical Saint: Saint Vaast.
This edifice is curious: by approaching it, the visitor will first notice the gigantic church tower which dominates the whole. As for the turrets which surround it, the architect, J. de Saint Maurice, said he was inspired by the churches of Brittany.
Its reconstruction was rapid, starting in 1923, it ended in 1924.
Yet, even if its façade seems imposing, the church was modestly glazed by L. Collinet around 1930-1931. Grey tones compose the most part of the stained-glass windows: a window is consecrated to Saint Vaast, another one to the Crucifixion and a last one has the remembrance stained-glass window, present in many churches in the area.
In contrast to Saint Martin’s church, which was rebuilt as it was before the war, Saint Omer’s church, which became the Saint Omer chapel of Vaulx-Vraucourt, was rebuilt in the pure Art Deco style. That was the principal appeal of this little edifice, finished in 1934 and overseen by Paul Décaux.
The stained-glass windows were installed in November 1938. The 46 windows are composed in majority of geometrical designs. Only the chancel’s bay windows offer a figurative décor with the Virgin and the Christ, or with a floral design.
It can be noted that it is rare that villages have two churches. For this district, it is actually the union of the village Vaulx and of the village Vraucourt in 1821, which formed the present village of Vaulx-Vraucourt. The two respective churches have been preserved.
Saint Amand’s church of Vélu was rebuilt between 1924 and 1927 by the architect Charles Wallon, whose plans brought out a certain classicism and a certain architectural innovation as the exterior is constructed with bricks, a local material which wasn’t too expensive.
The turret of medieval inspiration, flanked on the porch tower, completes the familiar impression that the church gives to the village of Vélu.
Even though this tour does not include the possibility of entering the church, it is all the same necessary to specify that its interior is a lot less traditional than the outside appearance would suggest. The harmony is given by the barrel vault nave, entirely composed of bricks and which evokes the work of the architect Louis-Marie Cordonnier, the leader of the Great Reconstruction.
The Notre-Dame Church of Hermies is a vast construction made with reinforced cement of Norman-Byzantine style, built from 1924 to 1932 by the architects P. Decaux and E. Crevel.
The stained-glass windows, installed by J. Largilliers between 1932 and 1939, can be seen every morning during the opening of the church.
Here is the list of the bay windows for those who wish to enter the edifice to admire them:
Bay window 0: The Virgin’s assumption.
Bay window 1 and 2: evangelists’ attributes on a geometrical design background.
Bay window 3: Crucifixion, geometrical design.
Bay window 4: Saint Antoine, geometrical design.
Bay window 5: Saint Anne and Saint Cécile.
Bay window 6: Saint Catherine, geometrical design.
Bay window 7: Saint Eloi, Saint Louis and Saint Saturnine.
Bay window 8: Saint Thérèse of the Christ Child giving roses to the First World War French soldiers. Saint Michel in front of the new church of Hermies, Saint Joan of Arc keeping a flock near Hermies.
Bay window 11: Notre-Dame of Brebières, geometrical design.
Bay window 12: the Christ’s Baptism, geometrical design.
The Notre-Dame church of Bus, to be pronounced without the ‘s’, is an edifice erected in 1929-1930 by the architect Marcel Bonhomme and which is composed of eight stained-glass windows of G. Janin, a gift from the parishioners around 1930.
The represented subjects and the design are traditional. We can notice the presence of Saint Fiacre, who is part of a local cult.
The visitors can also note the poor condition of the church.
Thanks to funding from the Heritage Foundation, a restoration project is in progress to counter the ornamental hinge corrosion and to replace the stained-glass windows.
The State, the Regional Council, the General Council and the district of Bus are partners in this project.
If you wish, you can donate on the website of the Heritage Foundation.
You can directly go onto the page by clicking: HERE.
With its church tower on the side, the Notre-Dame church of Bus is unusual. Although it has undergone the effects of time, it is one of the several atypical churches that deserve our attention.
‘Gem of the South Artois’, the Notre-Dame church of Rocquigny was the subject of a competition. It was the project of Jean-Louis Sourdeau, architect in Arras, which was chosen. The church was rebuilt between 1929 and 1932.
From 1993, it was closed for safety reasons by a bylaw. The building materials, of poor quality, which were used at the time to save money, had led to serious deterioration. The concrete, porous at certain places, crumbled, especially because of humidity.
On the 1st July 1994, the Town Council deliberated and voted for the demolition of the church.
Following the deposit of a demolition permission in 1996, the Regional Commission of the Historical, Architectural and Ethnological Heritage offered and obtained the inscription of the church in the French Supplementary Historical Monument List. Once again in 1999, the Town Council voted for the demolition of the edifice because of the acceleration of the deterioration. The Higher Commission of the Historical Monuments was taken to court and the file was presented on the 22nd November 1999.
The church of Rocquigny was finally entirely listed in the Historical Monuments by order, on the 7th September 2001.
A few months later, a bloc of concrete of almost 100 kilos came away from the bell tower. Judged too fragile, it was demolished in December 2001, to be firmly rebuilt as it can be seen today. The roofs and façades of the church were restored in 2005.