The chapels of Rue

Chapelle du Saint Esprit Then it gets more ornate The statues used to be outside The treasury Detail of the carving Ornate work around the gargoyles Chapelle de l'Hospice Translating as we go
Click on the thumbnails for a larger picture St Augustin


20 July 2009

My neighbour Guy was transferred to the Old Folks Home at Rue in 2008 and I have been visiting him since then. Like all things local you pass the signs telling you about the buildings of interest - and ignore them.

The aviation museum

I did however finally make the effort one day coming out of the Hospice to pop into the local Museum which has a large display dedicated to the Caudron Brothers who were the French equivalent to the Wright brothers.

This small museum provides an excellent overview of the lives and accomplishments of the Caudron brothers: René and Gaston, in the history of French aviation.

It was a Frenchman called Clément Ader who gave us the word Avion - aeroplane in French. Starting with the Latin word for a bird - avis - he came up with:

A - Appareil
V - Volant
I - Imitant
O - l'Oiseau
N - Naturelle

A flying apparatus imitating natural birds

The two brothers were sons of a local farmer who had managed in 1909 to build an aeroplane and fly it. They created a pilot training school on the beach at Le Crotoy on the bay of the Somme (Ten minutes away from Rue) and set up an aircraft factory in the town of Rue.

Chapelle du Saint Esprit

Chapelle du Saint Esprit

The museum is free and well worth the visit. It is situated within the Tourist Office opposite the Chapelle du Saint Esprit.

That they provided the RFC with Caudron aircraft during the war and taught Bessie Coleman (the first American black female pilot) is interesting on a modern note but the story of Rue goes back centuries and is as ever around here tied up in things frontier and my favourite beer Emperor - Charles Quint.

On visiting the town today it is hard to believe that it used to be a port. The silting up of the bay of the Somme has long since stopped its boating days but this access to the sea explains the importance of the town down through the ages.

It is believed to have been founded by Vikings in the 9th century. They came from Ry in Jutland (Denmark) and as that is pronounced: Ru the French version is easy to follow. The name therefore has nothing to do with the French word - rue - meaning a street.

The village became a stronghold in the Duchy of Ponthieu and would be claimed by the English kings during the Hundred Years war.

In 1101 a mysterious wooden crucifix supposedly originating from Jerusalem was washed up in a boat alongside the quay and the town became a popular place of pilgrimage.

The Beffroi which still houses the Town Hall was rebuilt after the pillaging by the English. It commemorates the town's charter of 1220.

The Beffroi and the chapels can only be visited on guided tours (in French) for a nominal fee. Whether you understand all the language or not the visits are well worth making for the chance to see these works of art.

Chapelle du Saint Esprit

Chapelle du Saint Esprit

Chapelle du Saint Esprit

Built between 1440 and 1515 the Chapel of the Holy Spirit is the finest piece of Flamboyant Gothic architecture in Picardie.

It was constructed in order to cater for the overflowing pilgrims coming to venerate the crucifix in the church of St Wulphy. The crucifix was eventually moved to the lower treasury in the chapel.

The church and chapel prospered and in the late 15th Century were visited by the Duke of Burgundy and his wife Isabella of Portgal and later by Louis XI, king of France.

At this time, donating money to the church was a well known method of assuring a front row place in the after life and of course it would be unseemly for a king to appear less generous than a mere duke.

The masons achieved wonders on the ceilings of the chapel and the stone lacework in the upper treasury. The guides explain that it was free for pilgrims to climb the stairs to see the ornate works but they then had to pay to get out again - sorry, I meant to say: make a donation towards the high maintenance fees.

It is easy to see how the work in the chapel progressed. As each new benefactor came along they tried to outdo the previous work. The intricacy of the carving gets increasingly ornate as you move towards the rear.

In 1887 a renowned local artist Albert Siffait de Moncourt painted three large works depicting the legends surrounding the crucifix.

Chapelle de L'Hospice

Chapelle de l'Hospice

In the lower treasury you can see a collection of statues that date from 1510-30. These were originally outside but were removed in 1980 to protect them from the elements. The Revolution was responsible for most of the large scale damage that you can see.

Having become weather worn and soiled by the passage of time the facade was subjected to a five year cleaning programme in 2003. Much of the upper stonework has in fact been completely replaced with a team of stonemasons recreating the original designs.

As for the crucifix itself, it was destroyed during the Revolution and only the right hand remains. It can be viewed behind the altar on organised visits to the chapel.

The Church of Saint Wulphy

The original church was created in the Roman style in the 12th century and its 44m high tower was a recognisable landmark for sailors approaching the coast. Sadly a violent storm on the 21st February 1798 destroyed the building and the new church was created between 1828 and 1833 by a local man Charles Sordi.

The church is in a neo-classical style and contains a number of items from its predecessor. The reason it abuts onto the Chapelle du Saint Esprit is because the church could no longer contain the throng of visitors wishing to see the miraculous crucifix and a new chapel was built alongside to greet them.

This also explains the false door leading from the chapel into the church - before the destruction of the old church it was a real one.

Chapelle de l'Hospice

Chapelle de L'Hospice

Chapelle de l'Hospice

The Hospice (now the old folks home) and its adjoining chapel were constructed in the 12th century. With so many poor and afflicted souls coming to Rue there was an ever increasing need for a place to look after them. During the numerous wars both buildings were destroyed and have been reconstructed a number of times. The current chapel dates from the 16th century whilst the Hospice itself dates from just before the Revolution.

The interior of the chapel, which is dedicated to Saint Nicolas and Saint-Jacques de Compostelle, is marvellous with its roof in the style of an upturned boat.

A canvas showing St Augustin writing his memoires is attributed to Philippe de Champaigne.


See also

St Valery sur Somme

Noyon and Laon

Winter Snow

Simon: 55th Birthday