Église Saint-Maximilien Kolbe
Arthur Regnault, né en 1839 à Bain-de-Bretagne, mort en 1932, est un architecte français. Centralien de formation, on lui doit la construction de nombreuses églises en Ille-et-Vilaine. Il est surtout connu pour ses églises d’inspiration occidentale comme l’église Sainte Jeanne-d’Arc de Rennes ou encore les églises de Saint-Senoux et de Corps-Nuds aux clochers à bulbes néo-byzantins très atypique dans le paysage breton. Parmi ses autres réalisations, on trouve les églises d’Acigné, Bédée, Cesson-Sévigné, Châteaubourg, Les Iffs, Liffré, Maure-de-Bretagne, Montreuil-sur-Ille, Noyal sur Vilaine, Pocé-les-Bois, Thorigné-Fouillard et Tinténiac, ainsi que la chapelle du Châtellier à Pléchâtel
Schiste, granit, tuffeau, Brique. L’église de Corps-Nuds est classée aux Monuments Historiques.
Un point d’histoire
L’étroitesse et l’état de vétusté de l’ancienne église des XVIe et XVIIe siècles constituent les éléments moteurs de la prise de décision par le conseil de fabrique de construire un nouvel édifice au même emplacement, en 1875. Appel est fait à Arthur Regnault, l’un des architectes les plus prolifiques du département. Celui-ci élabore un projet très original, marqué par le style romano-byzantin, que l’on retrouve également pour l’église de Saint-Senoux. Cette volonté de distinction est sévèrement relevée par le ministre de l’Instruction publique et des Cultes, qui juge le couronnement et les formes du clocher absolument inadmissibles. L’octroi d’une subvention est conditionné par la transformation du projet. La nouvelle église s’élève petit à petit, en s’appuyant sur l’ancien édifice. Les ressources financières étant modiques, la contribution des paroissiens, notamment par le charroi des matériaux, s’avère essentielle pour mener le chantier à son terme.
L’église à trois vaisseaux dont la nef, de plan centré, est consacrée en 1890. Elle est destinée à accueillir de nombreux fidèles. La forme en bulbe du clocher est caractéristique du style néo-byzantin souhaité par l’architecte. Il semble même que cette originalité ait servi la propagande allemande lors de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. D’après les anciens, l’église est utilisée en 1942 comme décor pour un film intitulé Battage du blé en Ukraine. Les figurants doivent revêtir des costumes russes et une borne kilométrique est recouverte par un étui sur lequel sont peints des caractères russes. Le metteur en scène réquisitionné n’est autre que Raimu. Ce film est probablement projeté en Allemagne durant l’été 1942, contribuant à tromper la population sur la progression réelle de l’armée allemande. Il est désormais introuvable.
A church to discover…
A legacy to keep.
History of the Parish
Historically, the name of Corps Nuds goes back to the 6th century and is found mentioned in in settlement manuscripts as “Cornut” (Victus Cornutius in Latin). It was around about that time that the Count of Vannes, Waroc’h, set about ravaging the country around Rennes, taking it away from the Franks, advancing to Cornut, chasing away King Chilperic’s troops.
Over the centuries Corps Nuds has seen its name changed many times but never straying too far from the original core signification:
Cornut, the centre of the Gallic population, the Carnutes, popularly became known as “Cornuz”.
In the 13th century (1240), Burgus de Cornut or according to a title in the chapter of Rennes “Sanctus Petrus a Cornutio” – St Pierre de Cornut.
In the 14th century (1397) – a notary wrote the name down as “Corpsnuz”.
In the 15th century (1426) – it became known as “Corpsnuz”.
In the 16th century – Archbishop Guillotin de Corson mentions “Corporibus Nudis” as part of the diocese of Rennes.
In the 17th century, the honourable parish sanctuary of the Chapel of Trois-Marie, situated in the road of the same name, renames the parish “Corps-Nuds or Cornut Les Trois-Marie”. On a number of ancient maps of Brittany it is also mentioned as simply “Les Trois Marie”.
Finally, in the 18th century the village became known as “Corps-Nudz” then “Corpnud” followed by the name of “Corps Nuds” that we know and love today.
The Parish Church
St Peter’s Church was built between 1875 and 1890 on the site of the old church. The size of the church was much more ambitious than the old one which served as scaffolding in order to construct the new edifice. This led to many parishioners describing it as “the daughter being much stronger than the mother”.
The church was designed and built by Arthur Régnault, an architect who was responsible for a number of other churches in and around the county of Ile and Vilaine. His project was met with a great deal of reticence from the authorities (the cost, the bizarre nature of the construction…) and building was halted on a number of occasions. The parishioners contributed generously to the completion of the church, be it through voluntary work on the building itself or by giving donations.
In the blue prints of the church, Régnault seemed to be very much inspired by the 2nd Byzantine period. In effect, the plans are closer to a Greek style cross than that of a Latin one.
In addition the general plan of the church is in the form of a Greek cross:
- a central dome that sits on a polygonal base;
- the interior identifiable from the exterior;
- offset stain glass windows on the 1st floor;
- oriental form given to the lanceolate arches on the sides;
- the narthex: the vestibule opens onto the nave that preceded the basilica, the style of which is both Byzantine and Romanesque;
- the dome-shaped bell tower.
But this Byzantine structure does not rule out design from the Roman period. Indeed, Régnault was inspired by three different periods from the Roman period:
1st Roman age: plain and simple church (sides and nave not under the same roof), wall to wall continuity is not present;
2nd Roman age: the embellishing of the façade using different colours most notably at the entrance to the church mainly composed of brick and schist rock;
3rd Roman age: In building the belfries, buttress walls and bell tower, Régnault clearly demonstrates his artistic taste in the 3rd Roman age, highly influenced by the Byzantine period.
The church was built using stone from local quarries (schist rock). In order to make the structure more solid and for the sake of aesthetics, Régnault integrated granite and red brick into the construction. Each element or designated space in the church is covered with its own slate roof that characterises the tradition of arched roofing from the Roman period. The originality of the church lies within the construction of the bell tower in the form of a dome reminiscent of the oriental style domes in Russia.
Invisible and well sheltered in their tower are the four church bells, the first of which weighs in at no less than 1 700kg and is named Marie. The second, lighter at 1 275kg is called Joséphine, the third, 850kg, Little Anne and last but not least Angelina who weighs in at a modest 500kg.
The inside of the church is in keeping with the proportions and style of churches Sainte-Sophie of Constantinople and Sainte-Madeleine of Jerusalem.
To the left of the entrance is a tomb stone of a priest accompanied by two angels that date back to around the 14th century. This stone comes from the ancient chapel of Trois-Marie of which the only remaining visible detail is the cockerel that once stood on the bell tower.
Note that the church boasts carved furnishings made by the cabinet maker Lemesle that include the pulpit, four confessionals, two lateral alters, two choir stalls with four sculpted panels. To the left are two rare examples of the nativity and to the right, images of Christ teaching his apostles and the Transfiguration. Each of these elements include different sculptures. Opposite the pulpit is a beautiful wooden sculpture of Christ on the cross.
In order to accompany services, the church has an organ that was made by the German born organ builder Merklin.
Raise your eyes to the vaults.
In the nave at the base of the four angles of the dome and at present undergoing renovation work are four paintings that represent four apostles:
The lion: Mark The bull: Luke The eagle: John The angel: Matthew
Towards the choir, situated in the vaulted ceiling is a mosaic fresco in the Byzantine and Roman style. It depicts a Christ pantocrator placed in a mandorla (panto taken from the Greek word, ‘pantos’ meaning ‘all’, expressing an idea of totality). Christ is seated in majesty holding the Book of Life in his left hand from which is read Ego Sum A and Ω. “I am the alpha and omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the language of faith, look no further, I am everything”.
The parish of Corps Nuds, Le Petit-Fougeray and Saulnières comes under the name of St Maximilien Kolbe, a Franciscan Pole who died in Auschwitz the 14 August 1941.
Now that you know a little more about the history of Corps Nuds and its church, we invite you to discover this heritage in more detail and maybe even spare a thought for those who were responsible in the making of such a rich and beautiful legacy.
Traduit du français par Tracy HUTCHON