Notre Dame de Raincy
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The church of Notre Dame de Raincy was deigned by August Perret, a French architect. Some experts consider it to be the first modern church in Europe. Despite modernitys tendency toward opposing the past, Perret was also concerned with the continuity of tradition. According to Collins, Notre Dame de Raincys is a product of the French classicism and thus cannot be classified as fully modern architecture.
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This essay argues that Notre Dame de Raincy is a unique modern sacred space in view of its simplistic forms, the elements that combine the contemporary and traditional Christian meanings, and the structural innovations that consist in using unconcealed concrete and symbolically redundant columns, which nevertheless contribute to the sacral nature of the space by reconciling the traditional spirituality with the post-war modern society.
History and Design of Notre Dame de Raincy
In 1914, the bishop of Raincy decided to build a new church in the Raincy community near Paris, in order to commemorate French soldiers victory in Ourcq .Nevertheless, Notre Dame de Raincy was completely constructed only in 1923 . The Notre Dame de Raincy is a monumental building that resembles an industrial monument. The church replicates a traditional basilica: the elongated church building ends with a bell tower . One of the lower towers hosts the Chapel of Remembrance, which commemorates the French soldiers who perished during the World War I.
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The churchs stained glass windows fill the place with plentiful of light. They also depict the scenes from the life of Virgin Mary, to whom the church is consecrated, the Nativity of Jesus, and the Stations of the Cross . One of the wall panels illustrates the victory of French soldiers at Ourcq, which, according to some, was made possible due to the protection of Mary .
Utilization of concrete in the design of the church is a major indicator of its modernity. Concrete is known for its coarseness and durability of the material . Yet the crudeness of concrete is actually emphasized instead of being concealed, and the reinforced concrete supports are demonstrated as visible structures. The sacral items of Notre Dame de Raincy, such as the baptismal font are also made of concrete. Despite the bold use concrete, which before was considered appropriate only for factory buildings , this material looks suitable in the sacral space of Notre Dame de Raincy. It reminds of the harshness of war, but also points at the capacity of modern man to edify the sacred. Thus, concrete in this building has not only an aesthetic and functional role, but also turns the building into a sacred place within the context of the challenges of modernity.
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Notre Dame de Raincy has all the essential elements that must be present at a Catholic church, but some elements are left without interpretation. One of the churchs ornaments is a dove, which is symbolizing the Holy Spirit . This communicates the simplicity of the divine as well as its presence at the church, as in the Holy Spirits symbol. Near the altar, there is a figure of Christ on the Cross. The churchs altar area has darker shades of stained glass, ending with a blue, which is a symbolic color of Virgin Mary. At night the church is filled with meaningful sights as well. It looks like a dark sky, which is deep, transparent, and filled with sparks of candlelight . Yet there are also some uncertain elements, which have no traditional sacral significance. The most prominent ones are the interiors columns that lead up to the altar alongside the walls. The columns are thin, fragile and isolated, and their meaning remains undetermined. While the columns appear to uphold the ceiling and balance out the emptiness of the interior, their meaning is alike to the use of concrete as a material. Its meaning is so uncertain that the concrete columns presence may lead to a feeling of apathy. Traditional sacral items and forms mix with modern forms that have no definite meaning. Still, since the columns do not openly contradict the sacred, they are acceptable in the project of making a modern sacred space.
The Notre Dame de Raincy is clearly a modern sacred space built in the early 20th century. The church is a replica of a Catholic basilica, yet its traditional design incorporates numerous modern elements.
Some of them perform a pre-defined function, according the modernist quest for the unity of form and function. For example, the Chapel of Remembrance, which is situated in of the churchs towers, reminds the public about the French soldiers who fought in the First World War. Alongside the sacral scenes from the life of Virgin Mary, there is a panel illustrating French soldiers victory at Ourq. The combination of the traditional and modern narratives that one might read on the stained glass walls of the church contributes to the feeling of the modern sacred space of Notre Dame de Raincy.
Concrete, which is the primary material from which the building is made, is a testimony to the churchs modernity. The reinforced concrete is the base for almost every part of the church, including its sacral items such as baptismal font. The concrete columns are particularly bewildering. While they seem to support the ceiling and fill in the emptiness of the inner space, the columns appear rather redundant in terms of their symbolic value. Yet the material from which these columns were made simultaneously emphasizes the fragility of sacred tradition at the time of drastic social changes, and these columns serve as a reminder of the lack of sense created by the process of industrialization and rapid social change.
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