Saturday, April 21, 2007

Chapelle Notre-Dame du Haut at Ronchamp


Le Corbusier (1887-1965) was one of the 20th century's most important architects. He designed only three religious structures, all in France. One of them was the pilgrimage chapel at Ronchamp.

He was born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret in Switzerland. In Paris he adopted his maternal grandfather's name, Le Corbusier, as his pseudonym.

Of the exponents of the International Style, none is better known than Le Corbusier. But some authorities call the chapel "Post-Modern".

Concrete allowed Le Corbusier to explore unusual shapes. The Chapelle Notre-Dame du Haut (1955) at Ronchamp resembles a boat, an ark. Some have seen a nun`s wimple in the billowing roof.

The chapel sits on the summit of a hill, Bourlémont, overlooking the town of Ronchamp, half way bewteen Dijon and Strasbourg.

The site of the Marian shrine has been a place of pilgrimage since 1271.

There have only been three chapels on this site, the first one being built in 1857. But the two previous churches were destroyed: the first one by fire; the second by bombing in the Second World War.

Again, one of the prime movers for the commission and execution of the project was the Dominican priest, Father Marie-Alain Couturier.

When handing over the keys to the Archbishop of Besançon, Le Corbusier said:

"I wanted to create a place of silence, peace and of interior joy. The feeling for the sacred, the holy suffused our work. Certain things are holy, others are not, whether they be religious or not...

Some signs and some words speak their hymn of praise to the Virgin.

The Cross - the true Cross of Torment, torture - has its place in this arch; from now on the Christian passion has taken possession of this place."

Plans began for Le Corbusier`s work in 1950. It was completed in 1955. However following on a petition, Rome forbade its consecration. It was not consecrated until 2005 by Archbishop André Lacrampe.

The nature of the site itself as a place of worship is integral to the project: starting from the ascent at the bottom of the hill to architectural and landscape events along the way, before finally terminating at the chapel. You cannot see the building until you reach nearly the crest of the hill. From the top, magnificent vistas spread out in all directions.

As well as the interior being a place of worship, there is also an outside altar and pulpit, so the large crowds can sit or stand on a vast field on the top of the hill.

A famous statue of the Virgin, rescued from the ruins of the chapel destroyed during the Second World War is encased in a special glass case in the wall, and it can be turned to face inward when the congregation is inside, or to face outward toward the huge crowds.


Chapel of Nôtre Dame du Haut

La Chapelle Notre-Dame du Haut (1955) - Le Corbusier

NOTRE DAME DU HAUT: a walk-through tour

Interior Stained Glass Window- Star of the Morning


  1. Thanks for your info. Your pictures have helped me to understand this magnificent building. I am a student and needed to know this building for our class. Great pictures!

  2. Thanks for your magnificent pictures! I am a student and I needed to know this building for our art history class. Your pictures helped me to understand what it looked like.