The church at Saint-Remy is at the start of the Valley de Chevreuse, along the Yvette stream, 200m from the train station, and at just 4 km from the medieval castle of la Madeleine.
The door was open, you have entered by the portal to find yourself under the square clock tower, dating from the 13th century with modifications in the 16th century.
To your right stands a holy water font in red marble.
Turn right, towards the baptismal font.
Sit down in one of the three stalls and look at this part of the the church, the side aisle, which was built in 1788 to replace several seigneurial chapels .
The baptismal font in made of marble, with a copper lid. A catechumen becomes a Christian by the pouring of water from the baptismal font over the head. Baptism enables full participation in the celebration of Mass, the sacrament of the Eucharist.
( Nowadays, baptisms take place in the choir, where a new copper baptismal font, skillfully made in the Coubertin workshop, stands.)
Turn around : the stained glass window above the font portrays the baptism of Jesus.
Jesus, whose birth was announced in the Bible, was born in Bethlehem and baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist
Now, look at the stained glass window nearby, depicting three major scenes :
The Annunciation : with the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary
The Visitation : when Elisabeth, upon Mary’s greeting, felt her child leap with joy in her womb and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Christmas : the birth of Jesus in a crib in Bethlehem, with Joseph and Mary.
Jesus was born ; he grew up, he taught ; he died on the cross in Jerusalem ; at Easter, he was resurrected from the dead ; he then directed his disciples :
‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.(Matthew, 28,19)
Peter went to Rome, Irenaeus to Lyon ; around the year 200, Saint Denis went to Paris and, one century later, Saint Martin evangelized in the french countryside.
Take time to sit in the central nave, where the people of God gather. This nave dates back to the 11th century, but was restored in the 16th century.
It is oriented in an east-west direction according to tradition. The sun rising in the east is, for Cristians, the symbol of the Risen Christ. It has an exceptional width (9m instead of the standard 7.5).
All the stained glass windows on the left date back to the 19th century. They illustrate the life of Saint Remy who converted the Franks to Christianity and baptized their king, Clovis, in 496 .
The stained glass windows on the right depict Mary’s life, Jesus’ childhood and the crucifixion.
You are facing the choir. The altar is in its centre ; it is the place where the sacred mystery of the Eucharist unfolds, in accordance with the words of Jesus
‘Do this in the memory of me’.
At each mass, Christ’s sacrifice is renewed during the Eucharist, when the bread and wine become His Body and His Blood, making Jesus fully present. The Christ on the cross, above the nave, dates back to the 17th century; its base, in the form of a cup of wine and bread, recalls the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples before he was arrested, tried, tortured and crucified.
The inscription above Jesus, ‘INRI’, records the charge against him: it reads, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’.
The choir of the church and its altarpiece were designed in 1863 by Charles de Coubertin, who also did the paintings and frescoes.
The choir was dramatically changed in 1970 with the addition of a new altar, the old one being moved to the right where the Tabernacle is now placed.
The new altar depicts an open book on which lies a tombstone ; it refers to the Word of God heard at mass.
The ambo, on the left side of the altar, is the place for reading the Word of God ; it was made from the old wooden pulpit, which dated back to 1867. The six beautiful remaining oak stalls are of the same period.
The stylish stand on the right, is in light oak and comes from the workshops of the Coubertin foundation.
On the left, is a painted and gilded wooden statue of The Virgin and Child dating back to the 18th century. Mary holds a scepter and, in her arms, her son Jesus, who holds up an orb surmounted by a cross, representing the universe.
On the red and gold fresco, the Archangels Gabriel (with the tempting serpent) and Michael (slaying the dragon), represent the angels sent to help us fight against sin. At the top of the fresco, two cherubs glorify Jesus by incensing him.
A medallion of enameled lava shows Jesus Christ holding a host; with the two greek letters, Alpha and Omega: Christ is “the first and the last, the beginning and the end’.
On the left is a medallion of Saint Remy (Remigius in latin) and, to the right, a medallion of the Virgin Mary, SANCTA MATER DEI, Holy Mother of God.
Two lateral niches with statues of Saint Remy and Saint Avoy, in painted plaster, dating from the 19th century, remind us that the village of Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse was originally two distinct hamlets – Saint Rémy on the banks of the Yvette stream and Saint Avoye, 200 metres away, where the city hall now stands.
The 1860 large painting of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary, by Charles de Coubertin, is a copy of the 1678 painting by Murillo. This painting, now in Madrid, used to be in the Louvre, in Paris, where it was accessible for copyists. It depicts the dogma of the Immaculate Conception as proclaimed in the 16th century (Council of Trent): the white robe reminds us of Mary’s purity, the blue coat refers to eternity, the golden cloud to divine light, in contrast to the darkness on the lower left corner of the painting which refers to the world of darkness. Mary is rising towards Heaven.
Above the painting is the Dove of the Holy Spirit, descending upon us.
Christians believe in one God in three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit . The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of love between the Father and Son ; God has poured out his love into our hearts by the working of the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us’.
The Holy Spirit is represented either by a dove or a cloud.
Turn right and take a closer look at the small altar in white stone. Just above it is the door of the Tabernacle in which the consecrated hosts – the Eucharist – are preserved. A red lamp is lit to signal the Real Presence of Christ.
Next to the door of the Sacristy (the room where all that is necessary for the celebration of the mass is kept), is a 19th century confessional.
Walking towards the back of the church along the nave, pause to look at the unique statue of Jesus Christ, the work of sculptor Christophe Charbonnel (2009), which represents Christ’s Ascension into heaven. Jesus triumphs over evil, sin and death, creating new life and unfading joy.
Continue walking and look up towards the Neo-Gothic gallery built in 1882 to hold the pipe organ made by Louis Suret, organ builder.
On the right of the gallery is an old copy of a Titian painting, the Supper at Emmaus (1530, now in the Louvre).
In Luke 24.13-35, we read the account of two disciples meeting Christ after his resurrection. But their eyes were kept from recognizing the risen Christ until after they had shared supper in the village of Emmaus.
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight”. Luke 24.30-31
Titian captured this startling moment. On the table are the ingredients of the Eucharist, bread and wine. The crisp white tablecloth strengthens the suggestion of a church altar. The salt refers to Christ telling his disciples
‘You are the salt of the earth’. Matthew 5.13
The dog under the table refers to a passage in Matthew 15 where a non-jewish woman tells Jesus
“Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Matthew 15.27, suggesting that the mission of Jesus might be relevant to non-Jews as well.
Next to the exit door you will find a commemorative plaque which was originally in one of the seigneurial chapels. It reminds us of Jesus saying: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. John 13.34
As you leave, take time to look back at our village church and its beautiful bell tower.
Open daily, the Church welcomes Christian believers and passers-by who explore our beautiful Chevreuse Valley.
Everyday, morning, noon and night, you will hear the bells of the Angelus ring. These bells have rung out since the 15th century. The Angelus reminds us of the Angel Gabriel giving Mary the message of the coming of the Messiah through her.
Open every day.
Sunday mass at 9.30 and 11.am during school time
11.am during fall, winter and spring holydays.
9.30 am during summer holydays.
(Saint Rémy Church, FD, MW, EPVC) 8.4.20
Photos: HB, ndoduc, popgouv