Church Saint Leonard and al. at Alençon!

And on my road warrior trips in nearby Normandy I finally came to Alençon and it was a hit with the family. Nice town full of wonderful monuments, some of them will briefly explain here as well as the nice Church of Saint Leonard. Hope you enjoy the tour,and again thanks for reading me over the years! 

I take you to Alénçon in the Orne dept 61 of Normandie. 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 church in a very nice historical district of a very nice Norman city of Alençon, that is the Church 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  the Church Saint Leonard quite opportune for a visit.



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 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.



The Church Saint Léonard came 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. 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 Saint Leonard did not possessed 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 main façade, which was probably never completed, is thought to have been doubled by a polygonal porch, like in Notre-Dame. The last church work dates from 1897, with the reconstruction of Saint-Fiacre Chapel, in the south side aisle. The western facade houses an unframed door; it is flanked by two buttresses on the left, and an internal staircase and a buttress on the right. The north and south gutter walls have two elevation levels: the first is pierced by four bays and flanked by four buttresses, the second is pierced by six bays. The bedside has two levels of elevation: the first pierced with small windows and the second with clocks. Above the apse is the bell tower.

The city of Alençon on its heritage:

My information is from history brochures, visit to the church, and the local tourist office 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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