Church of Saint Leonard, Alençon!

And moving away from more familiar surrounding and in the ever increasing thirst for new things in my belle France I take you to Alénçon in Normandy. Many times passed by in my road warrior rides and finally an up close and personal meeting, very nice indeed as what else isn’t it in my belle France.

Let me tell you a bit about a nice building in a very nice historical district of a very nice Norman city of Alençon, that is the Church of Saint Leonard.

As we went into our parking in place Foch just by the Hôtel de Ville, Palais de Justice etc, we walk along rue du Maréchal Lattre de Tassigny until the junction with the Grande Rue and look right you see St Leonard’s Church.

This is the historic district of the city not to be missed. Its cobbled streets and buildings are a unique testimony of Alençon in the Middle Ages. Throughout the walks, you will come to see the Church of Saint-Léonard, the Maison des sept colonnes (House of the Seven Columns) , Maison à l’étal (house at the stall). You also have to have eyes in the air because the area has many balconies carved in wrought iron. The Pont de Sarthe (Sarthe river bridge), located a few steps from the old hospital, is a pleasant place to stroll and offers nice views. It is also a lively area with its bars and restaurants.





Saint-Léonard Church at Alençon in the department of Orne 61 in the Normandy region The Church is under the term of Saint-Léonard de Noblac. It is of flamboyant Gothic style; It was built from 1489 by Duke René, second Duke of Alençon, and then by his widow Marguerite of Lorraine in the early 16C. Its Martin tower dating from the 12C is the base of the tower-steeple; It was deeply remodelled following the collapse of the vaults of the nave in 1645. The Church underwent several restorations in the 17-18C before being refurbished in the 19C. It is at the Place Marguerite de Lorraine,Alençon.




The Church has an elongated plan composed of a nave and two aisles. Flat bedside; presence of a 16C style steeple. Attached to the castle of the Dukes, the Church was then used as a private Chapel.

A bit of history I like

The relics of Saint Leonard, who died in 570, were transported in 868 to Corbigny by the monks of Vandœuvre to preserve them from the Normans. Some of them were undoubtedly returned to 1025 thanks to the second Lord of Alençon, Guillaume I, and deposited in an ancient chapel dedicated to Saint Martin located on the site of the present St. Leonard’s Church. This saint is often invoked to cure deafness.

A first Saint-Léonard Church, attested between 1160 and 1182, was probably built very close to St. Martin’s Oratory. This disappeared in the middle of the 13C in forgotten circumstances, but parish life remained concentrated in the Chapel until the end of the 15C. It is on the latter that the present church, in the tertiary ogival style and inside in flamboyant Gothic, is elevated by the Duke René of Alençon and his wife Marguerite de Lorraine.

The bulk of the work ranged from 1490 to 1505 and it was that same year that the building was placed under the term of Saint Léonard de Noblac, a character then more in vogue than Saint Léonard de Vandœuvre.   On the stained glass windows of one of the eleven lateral chapels, which was for some time dedicated to Louis IX, ancestor of the Earls and Alençonnais dukes, and on the walls, were the coats of arms of the Houses of Alençon and Lorraine, now extinct. It was in this chapel that the Duchess and the Duke attended the office and in which a chimney that no longer existed was built for them. After René ‘s death, his heart is deposited in a box of lead, itself shaped as a heart, covered with a stone. When at about 1510, René ‘s heart was transferred to the Church of Saint-François de Mortagne, the empty box was left in his vault. In 1776, the stone, which also bears the imprint of a heart, is removed, then put back in its place, and this impression, erased by the friction of the feet, no longer exists than in memory. In 1562, the Church was plundered by the Protestants. At Easter 1645, the granite vault of Hertré crumbles. Replaced by a simple cradle of plaster, it was only in 1836 that a new vault of Gothic style was built. The main door is arranged in 1663 and the clock is laid in 1727.

Until 1789, this Church will depend on Notre Dame and shall not possess baptismal fonts. The altar and the carved wooden pulpit, two side consoles and some modern stained glass windows for the most part, deserve the attention of the visitor. The Church of Saint-Léonard, restored in the 17-18C, then entirely refurbished in the 19C.

Not much to show the visitor other than in Catholic religious webpages such as the parrish Church at Alençon, info in French here: Parrish of Notre Dame d’Alençon see St Leonard

My information is from history texts that I keep in my library for a much love of history many times overlook or bypass for many reasons. The Church of St Leonard is worth a detour if not just to walk among its medieval district of Alençon. Hope you enjoy it.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!


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