Eglise de Varangeville
This weekend has been spent visiting a few friends in a beautiful village by the name of Varengeville in Normandy. The village's church - perched on the top of a hill overlooking the ocean - is nothing short of remarkable. Originally built in the 12th century by a small group of monks and enlarged in the 16th, the church has since become something of a focus for more contemporary design. Georges Braque designed a series of stained glass windows for the church - windows which now continue to flood the interior with waves of lapis and azure.
It is incredible to consider the depth of human presence here. The southern nave was likely built under the patronage of Jehan Ango, a native of nearby Dieppe and a powerful associate of the King of France. He owned a fleet of ships and would often set them forth to new lands on voyages of conquest and discovery. The southern pillars date from this period and are carved with images of scallop shells, strange sea creatures and what are believed to be depictions of 16th c. south americans, evidence of the far reach of his vessels. Years later Jehan Ango would be imprisoned, destitute, for failure to pay tax on his profits as a privateer, a form of state-sanctioned piracy.
Raoul Ubac, a friend of George Braque and a fellow artist, was commissioned to produce a second series of glass windows, the almost calligraphic panels high in the Southern wall. Perhaps the most striking paintings hung on these ancient limestone walls are those of Michel Ciry, the local artist who gave a large piece called'Christ the Redeemer' to the Church in 1998, around 800 years into the history of this building. The piece was later joined by two other canvasses which now flank this first work. At first glance I would admit these felt slightly jarring in such an old setting, but the more time I spent in their company the less incongruous they felt. After a while, their un-forced manner and blunt, heartfelt humanity felt like a fitting continuation of this ancient church of priests and pirates. MT