Restoration of the Spirit


Eglise Saint-Jean Baptiste de Bourbourg

Chapel of Light/ Chœur de lumière

More images here

“A Jewish atheist from North London might not appear to be the obvious choice to restore a medieval French chapel. But Sir Anthony Caro, who has made his name from works of steel rather than stone, has been given the job of restoring the war-damaged Roman Catholic church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Bourbourg, near Dunkirk in northern France.”

Ruth Gledhill of the The Times (UK) continues, “However, when you see what the 84-year-old former pupil of Henry Moore has done with light, water, steel and wood you appreciate the logic of the commission, for this is not so much a repair job as a work of art. The church was a victim of friendly fire: according to local legend, during the Second World War, a British pilot on his way home suddenly came to the awful realisation that his plane was going to crash. Rather than land on the houses, he steered his aircraft at the church, crashing into the choir end of the nave. The main body of the church was restored but the choir was left in ruins. ” Read her entire Nov 8 2008 article in The Times online here.

Caro’s agent in London, Annely Juda Fine Art, eleased this information in a press release to coincide with the chapel’s dedication in October 2008,” Over a period of several years, Anthony Caro has been working on a major series of sculptures and architectural features to form the restoration of a chapel at Bourbourg in Northern France, about 12 miles east of Calais. The ‘Chapel of Light’ adjoins the Church of St Jean de Baptiste.

“During World War II, a damaged English aircraft crash-landed on the roof of the church in order to avoid the houses in the town, and set it on fire. The church itself was restored, but the choir was separated by a wall from the body of the church and left in ruins until ten years ago.

“Caro was commissioned by the French Ministry for Culture and Communication to make a sculptural installation that would bring new life to the redundant choir. Specifically for the project he has designed and built two huge oak towers each about 18 feet high. These towers are to be used for musical performances and to allow exploration of the church space. Caro has also made a concrete baptismal font and a spectacular series of steel, wood and terracotta sculptures to fill a series of niches in the walls of the apex of the choir. Various other sculptures complete the east and west naves, linked through a doorway to a large exterior sculpture in corten steel. The sculptures follow the themes of The Creation (relating to the baptismal font) – culminating in The Paradise Garden.

“Anthony Caro recognises that this monumental project is an exceptional opportunity for an artist. He stated, ‘The light in the church is wonderful and it is such a privilege as an artist to be given such an entire space to work with’. Not since Matisse’s Chapel in Vence has another artist been given this opportunity in France. ”

On View: Choeur de Lumiere (Chapel of Light) by Sir Anthony Caro. Scupture, 2008. Installed in the war-damaged Roman Catholic church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Bourbourg, near Dunkirk in northern France.

Hat Tip to Episcopal Cafe ace reporter, Ann Fontaine.

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