May 30, 2010

Abbé Paul-André Lecoutre, Église décorée/Decorated church

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


  1. For someone with no formal art schooling, it looks like he did a rather amazing job...

    This place is not too terribly far from where we are, may have to go take a look one of these days...

    I'm beginning to believe that your sources of such sites are bordering on infinite. Which is fine by me.

  2. Hi Owen, If you are going to visit this church (it's not so far indeed), would you care to take some pictures of details of the frescoes?
    I wonder what they look like. Probably kind of naive art.
    When I started this blog I just had written notes about some 20 or 30 sites to fill the blog, now I have written about 100+ and they keep coming and coming, there must be an end of course, but when? Have a nice week.

  3. Of course i also wish that the environments by all those brave, honest, sincere people never to come to an end, and that as long as there were humans, may there exist also people who dare to create and express they special view about life and the world as all this group of outsiders do. And of course, to continue having you dear Henk and your posts.
    All the best and regards for you wonderful friend

  4. Hello Henk,

    I have come via Owens site to read your post about this church. I'm glad you found it and now have made others aware. Its a beauty and would be worth visiting if in the area.

    Many Thanks.........Al