Resurrexit à Grateloup-Saint-Gayrand

Ľ  oeuvre Échelle au Ciel est exposée 30 août - 15 octobre 2019.


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Échelle au Ciel & Marian. Photo: Louis-Michel Grevent

Échelle au ciel
Du 24 août au premier septembre 2019 je participe au projet d’art Resurrexit à Grateloup-Saint-Gayrand, département du Lot-et-Garonne en France.
Huit artistes ont développé leur création inspirée par l’église de Saint-Gayrand. L’église se trouve au sommet d’une colline et a été récemment sauvée de ruine. Elle offre une source riche en histoire, architecture et religion aux artistes.

Les œuvres d’art sont inspirées à l’histoire de l’église et à l’endroit.
En bref, l’église a vu beaucoup de victimes: pendant la guerre de 100 Ans (1337-1453), pendant la réformation du Calvinisme (1562-1598) et aux incinérations de sorcières aux bûches, dont la dernière eut lieu en 1662. À l’occasion de la révolution en 1789 la plupart des bâtiments religieux furent pillés ou vendus à l’état, beaucoup de prêtres et pasteurs furent massacrés.
Récemment un toit a été mis sur le clocher et l’escalier. Le reste de l’église consiste en murs.

Je construis une échelle, pour faciliter les âmes de tous les morts que l’église a vus, de monter au ciel.
Les échelons ont beaucoup de couleurs, de sorte que la montée soit attirante.
Les matériaux principaux utilisés sont le bambou et le velours. L'échelle monte au-dessus des murs de l'église et a une hauteur de 12 mètres. Le haut de l’échelle est fouetté par le vent, parce qu’il n’est pas toujours facile d’atteindre le ciel. Il y a 27 échelons, parce que c'est 3 fois divisible par 3.
Les habitants de Grateloup-Saint-Gayrand donnent une grande contribution à la construction de l’échelle, en fournissant des tissus, en cousant et en aidant avec la montée. Ainsi l'oeuvre d'art est un véritable produit communal. C'est un cadeau mutuel entre l'artiste et les habitants du village.
La construction de l'échelle a lieu au pied de la colline de l'église.

Couture dans la Salle des Fêtes. Photo: Damien van de Hel

En attendant la montée. Photo: Carlotta Brunetti

Échelle au Ciel


L´église Saint Gayrand



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Presentation of Échelle au Ciel. Photo: Louis-Michel Grevent


English text

You can see Échelle au Ciel (Stairway to heaven) 30 August - 15 October 2019

From 24 August - 1 September 2019 I participated to the art project Resurrexit in Grateloup-Saint-Gayrand, department of Lot et Garonne in France.
Eight artists developed their site-specific creation dedicated to the church of Saint Gayrand. This building on a hill top, being currently restored from ruin, offers a very rich historical, architectural, and religious context for site-specific artists’ visions.
The art works are based on the history of the church and the area. In short, the church has seen many victims. During the 100 Years War (1337-1453), during the reformation of Calvinism (1562 - 1598) and at witch trials (the last one took place in 1662). During the revolution in 1789 most religious buildings were pillaged or sold to the state, many priests and pastors were massacred.
Recently there was put a roof on the bell tower and staircase. The rest of the church consists of walls.

I made a stairway to heaven, to facilitate the souls of all the death the church has witnessed, to escape to heaven. The rungs are multicoloured, in order to make a pleasant mount.
The main used materials are bamboo and velvet. The ladder, standing in the middle of the church, is 12 meters high and rises above the walls. The top of the ladder is whipped by the wind, because it’s not always easy to reach heaven. 
The inhabitants helped to construct the ladder and to donate pieces of textile, making a contribution to the mount of the souls. It's a mutual present between the artist and the inhabitants.

History of the area

The origins of the first main conflict between France and England happened here. The Duchess Alienor of Poitou, first married to the King of France who gave her Aquitaine, subsequently married the heir of a powerful French family, Henri II Plantagenet who eventually conquered England. This was the origin of the English kings’ claim on the whole western part of France and of the 100 Years War. This war (1337-1453) will see the region pass several times from England, to France, to the County of Toulouse and back… until Joan of Arc helped finish it…

In the XVIth century, many locals opted for the religious reformation (Protestantism), following the preaches of Calvin, much more radical than Luther’s. A major conflict opposed the Kings and majority of the Catholic population to the southern Protestant Lords and their population. The most horrible crimes were committed both sides. The open wars lasted from 1562 to 1598. On that date, the new king, Henri de Bourbon, ex-protestant leader, having returned to the Catholic faith, succeeded into reaching a treaty, the Edict of Nantes, that gave an acceptable level of freedom to Protestants. In 1680, the parish of St Gayrand counted only 5 Catholics for 350 Protestants.

By breaking the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Louis XIV imposed the Protestants, called the Huguenots, to come back to Catholicism or emigrate. Many moved to Prussia, or the Netherlands and from there to the US, and South Africa, where they brought their local vines and wine technology. The Protestants who converted by force back to Catholicism after 1685, were described by the bishop of Agen as « tepid believers ».

Independently from the religious context, the neighbouring village of Grateloup (today united to St Gayrand) saw in 1662 one of the very last witch trials and executions in France.

In 1787, 2 years before the French Revolution started, Louis XVI had promulgated full freedom of cult for Protestants and Jews, but the Revolution was profoundly anti clerical and finally anti religious. Most religious buildings were pillaged, or sold as belonging to the State. The priests and protestant pastors alike were forced to pledge allegiance to the Republic or were imprisoned. Many were just massacred. After a relatively quiet XIXth century, in 1904, the Republic nationalised all the belongings of the church. The survival of the buildings would then depend on the goodwill of municipalities.

The two villages of Saint Gayrand and Grateloup have been united as Grateloup-Saint Gayrand in 2002.

History of the church

The initial church was built (Romanesque style) in the XIIth century, then pillaged and ruined by English troops during the 100 years War (XIII-XIV centuries). It was rebuilt at the end of the XVth century in Gothic style, still visible in the stained glasses structures that remain.
Pillaged by Protestant troops, the bells were taken away.
The building was restored in the XVIIIth century. A bell was cast and baptised Dominique in 1750 (This bell did last ring on the 8th of May 1945 to celebrate the end of WWII. It was sold in 1964 to a community of Polish miners for their chapel in the north of France. And it disappeared).

The anti-religious French Revolution, and massacre of the local priest, added to the miseries of the building. In 1895, due to insecurity of the structures, cults were interrupted.
In 1923, the roof over the nave fell off. 

Masses were still occasionally held in one of the lateral chapels until the 60’s.
Since 1988 a group of inhabitants has created an association to save and restore the building. It has joined forces with government support to stabilize the top of the walls and put a roof on the bell tower and its staircase.
The association is trying to gather resources to continue the restoration.
A child was baptised there by the Priest of Tonneins in 2016.
The nave and chapels are open to visitors.

Christian elements

Saint Patron of the church: Saint John the Baptist.
Patron name: Saint Gayrand, assimilated to Saint Guérin, coming from Guarinus or Warren. This saint was born 1159 in Palestrina (Latium, Italy). He is known for the austerity of his life and his love and help to the poor.
The church remains consecrated. This means masses can still be canonically held here.

Architectural elements

The arches bearing the vault have disappeared over the nave and the lateral chapels. Grass grows on the ground.
The bell tower and its staircase are protected from rain by new roofing, as are the tops of the walls.
The altar has almost disappeared. Two steps are still visible leading from the nave to the choir, in which a door opens into a tiny sacristy.
No stain glass remains. Most stain glass’ structures have been plugged with masonry to avoid crumbling. Some remain open with traces of original XVth century stone structures.
Some recesses/tabernacles exist in the walls, especially in the lateral chapels.


Localisation de l'église Saint Gayrand dans le département Lot et Garonne