January 23, 2009

Abbé Victor Paysant, Église de Ménil-Gondouin/The church at Ménil-Gondouin



pictures (spring 2010) courtesy of Sophie Lepetit,

 A local priest who completely decorates the local church. It happens very occasionaly¹. Here is the story of the church of Ménil-Gondouin, a small community of some 175 inhabitants, located in Normandy, France. 

Life and works


In 1873 Victor Paysant (1841-1921) became the abbé of Ménil-Gondouin,

During all the years he was the local priest, he decorated the interior and the outside of the church with representations of paradise and hell, religious texts, paintings, frescoes, all executed rather colourful, vivid and brightly. People said it was an "église parlante et vivante", a talking, vivid church.


Abbé Paysant made pilgrimages to Rome, Jerusalem and Egypt. He also collected statues with a religious character which he displayed in the church.

After  the priest had passed away 
in 1921, the ecclesiastical authorities ordered the removal of all frescoes and statues.

However, around 2000 inhabitants of Ménil-Gondouin took the initative to restore the decorations. They got support from the local authorities. If I am correct the mayor of the community made a pelgrimage to Rome to raise interest in the restoration of the church.

So thanks to all this enthusiasm and also with financial support of a number of institutions, from 2004 untill 2006 the frescoes have been restored by mural artist Hugues Sineux and his brother Jean-François Sineux.


It was a great help that so many old postcards of the decorated church were available, over two hundred different ones, most of these produced on behalf of the priest. But to decipher the original colors, scrappings had to be made 

Most statues, however, could not be recovered.



How to characterise Paysant's creation?

In France the decorations of the church are usually assessed from the viewpoint of art brut. 

However, in an article on the website Culture Visuelle (april 2010) Patrick Peccatte has argued that the decorations better can be studied from the viewpoint of the art of propaganda. He offers a lot of information about the message the priest wanted to disseminate by means of the decorations. 

translation into english of his article in my collection of texts on outsider environments. 

Documentation, more pictures
* Article on Wikiwand
* Website of Hugues Sineux who did the restoration of the frescoes
* Weblog of Sophie Lepetit (june 2010) with information (in french) and more pictures,
* Video by Diocèse de Séez (2'37", made 2008 and uploaded febr 2009, Daily Motion)



note
¹ another priest who decorated his church is Paul-André Lecoutre from Wiwignes, Pas-de-Calais

Abbé Victor Paysant
Église parlante et vivante
Menil-Gondouin, Normandie, France
if closed, turn to the nearby café
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