picture tourist office Desvres Samer
Wirwignes is a small community of some 700 inhabitants in the coastal area of northern France, not far from Boulogne sur Mer.
Life and works
From 1863 untill his death, Paul-André Lecoutre (1830-1906) has been Wirwignes' priest.
In 1867 he made a trip to Palestine, Egypt and Italy, and probably he came back being very enthusiastic about what he had seen and experienced. This may have inspired him to make the biblical stories and the commandments better understandable for the many illiterate inhabitants of the community, by visually displaying these in the church.
Athough abbé Lecoutre had no training in doing artwork at all, in 1867 he began decorating the walls of the church with frescoes and texts, all together kind of a catechism for the people of the parish. It's rather curious that in the same period another priest, abbé Victor Paysant, was active in decorating the church of hìs parish, Menil-Gondouin in Normandy.
Abbé Lecoutre did not leave a square centimeter of the walls and the ceiling of the church untreated. He also added all kinds of sculptured and decorated elements to the church. Apart from these decorations new chapels were built on the sides of the church and new glass-stained windows were installed.
this, and the next picture courtesy of Owen Philips,
from his website Magic Lantern Show
In 1887 the works had advanced so far, that the bishop of Arras could re-consecrate the church.
Abbé Lecoutre continued his decorative activities.
While at work, in 1907, he died due to an accident. When completing a decoration in the height of the church, he fell down from the scaffold.
The priest was buried in front of the church, on the local cemetery.
The church is a historical monument
The church, which is owned by the municipality, in 2006 has got the status of a historical monument.
It will be closed on weekdays. However, on demand a guided visit can be arranged by a volunteer of the Pas de Calais Greeters organisation (situation such as existing in 2010).
* Video by Jean Michel Zazzi l'Oeuvre de l'Abbé Lecoutre (shot in 2002, downloaded to Youtube june 2014, 6'32", embedding disabled)
first published may 2010, revised march 2015
Abbé Paul-André Lecoutre
Église (de St Quentin) decorée
62240 Wirwignes, Pas de Calais, FR
to visit contact the Greeters association