Another blog in the series from our roving arts reporter David Smith
I love country churches and churchyards: stumbling across the textile banners created by the local community in St. Mary’s Church, Conistone in Wharfedale or discovering the memorial to J. B. Priestly in St. Michael & All Angels, Hubberholme, with its mystery of a disappearing altar table which reappeared in the local pub, The George!
Well, I’ve been on a walking holiday in the Alps. The problem with walking in the Alps is that every walk involves going up! “Have a look at the village of Plateau d’Assy; the village is unremarkable but the church is worth looking at …” a guide told me. Tired of walking up, I took the bus down… and what a find!
Église Notre Dame de Toute Grâce, Plateau d’Assy is high on the Chamonix valley-side with unobstructed views across to Mont Blanc. That in itself is special. But as soon as the church comes in view you can see that it too, is going to be special.
A small village, a small church built in the style of an alpine chalet but once inside its rich wooded, warm interior it is full of delights and surprises: from Matisse to Chagall!
It is a staggering display of paintings, sculptures, stained glass, ceramics and mosaics from artists who were thought to be at the top of their field at the time.
Consecrated in 1950, the decision to commission secular artists to provide pieces for the church created a storm, resulting in some pieces being removed before being eventually returned. The crucifix below was removed for over 20 years before being restored.
As you can see, the crucifix, created by Germaine Richier, presents a tortured figure on the cross which challenged the established sentimental portrayals of Christ on the cross. It was criticised as ‘an insult to the majesty of God’. It does, however, present a moving image of suffering.
The ceramic mural by Marc Chagall was his first work specifically designed for a church and the forerunner of many more from the great cathedral in Rheims to the tiny All Saints in Tudely, Kent.
So, if you happen to visit the Chamonix Valley, take a walk up the north side of the valley to Plateau d’Assy…or better still take the bus!
Further information on Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce du Plateau d’Assy can be found on: