Only a couple of days ago I realised that my route plan for this trip was taking me fairly near to a building that has fascinated me for over forty years. Not only that, but the story of the man behind the building I find equally compelling.
The building in question is the Chapel of Notre-Dame du Haut and the man is known simply as Le Corbusier.
Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, Le Corbusier, was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland in 1887. He trained first as an artist, before branching out as an architect, town planner, writer and humanist. He was a prominent figure of the modern art movement and is credited as a leader in what is today called “modern architecture.” He was a pioneer in the use of reinforced concrete as an architectural art form. He died in France in 1965.
It was to this beautiful hillside that I turned Baby late this afternoon. In a way I was undertaking a bit of a pilgrimage and I wasn’t disappointed.
The predecessor to today’s Chapel was sadly destroyed at the end of World War Two, but it gave Le Corbusier a blank canvas with which to work for its replacement.
Le Corbusier wanted light to become integral to the design so the roof doesn’t actually sit on the walls! It is standing on a series of columns with the walls providing a filling, at the top of the walls, which themselves are perforated in windows, are thin glass fillets that allow light to shine through and make the roof appear to be sitting on a cushion of light.
Externally I found the building stunning enough, but inside took my breath away!
I don’t normally get very excited about religious buildings, yes I love the great medieval cathedrals for their impressive structural engineering; I like the wonderfully quirky Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and there’s a very small old church in Dorset that once quite charmed me, but nothing compares to this Chapel!
I wandered in and for a moment just stood taking it in; before, almost overcome by the atmosphere, I had to sit down on a simple bench against the wall furthest from the main altar. The place just oozed peace and tranquility.
When the building was opened in 1955 Le Corbusier said;
“By building this chapel, I wanted to create a place of silence, prayer, peace, inner joy.”
Well, he certainly did that.
I don’t honestly know how long I sat there, I just didn’t want to leave and I really could feel an inner peace. I’m not at all religious these days, but you know, something reached out and touched me there and I feel better for it.
Catch you soon.