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Let's have a short tour in Notre-Dame de Royan

Notre-Dame de Royan is particularly known for its original shape and concrete design. Often decried by those who often do not even dare to push the door to discover the inside, it is a strong symbol of the Reconstruction of Royan, destroyed by the bombings of World War II. Here, the Liberation rhymes with major destruction. Royan is an exception in the "Reconstruction process" in France and will impose itself as a unique meeting place between architects and engineers, of which Notre-Dame is a masterpiece!

Notre-Dame de Royan: A Masterpiece of Modern Architecture

Notre-Dame de Royan is renowned for its unique concrete design and distinctive shape. Though often criticized by those who hesitate to step inside, this church stands as a powerful symbol of Royan's post-World War II reconstruction. The city, heavily damaged by bombings, embraced a bold architectural vision during its rebuilding, and Notre-Dame de Royan is a testament to this innovative spirit.


Not a Cathedral, But Impressive Nonetheless

Contrary to popular belief, Notre-Dame de Royan is not a cathedral but a church!

Its impressive dimensions—45 meters long and 22 meters wide—often tend to make us forget it! Can we really remain unmoved in front of this immense bell tower which rises 60 meters high? This towering 60-meter tower, visible from far away, stands out in the landscape like a lighthouse...  and symbolizes a city standing tall despite wartime atrocities.

From the beginning, the municipality wanted a very vertical project to symbolize a city still standing despite the atrocities of war! 

Construction of this architectural marvel took 5 years, and Notre-Dame de Royan was inaugurated and blessed in July 1958.

A Vertical Masterpiece

The design of Notre-Dame de Royan follows a slope, creating a dramatic entrance with a monumental staircase that leads into the church's nave. From the top of the staircase, it's as if you're diving into the nave, offering a breathtaking perspective!

Architect Guillaume Gillet, inspired by medieval and gothic architecture, skillfully incorporated gothic symbolism into this concrete structure. Take a look, even if the material changes, here concrete, concrete and more concrete... we find all the codes of a Gothic church: whether it is the search for light through the glazing or this shape of mandorla adopted for the plan of the church.

It is true that the Latin cross plan is not present here, but in any case the mandorla, this elongated almond shape (of which I also talked about when mentionning the romanesque facade of Saint Pierre d'Angoulême), is a timeless Christian symbol.


Innovative Architectural Features

One of the most striking features is the V-shaped concrete supports, a technical marvel both inside and out. Do you believe me if I tell you that the pillars are only 10 cm thick? These supports alternate with large glass surfaces, flooding the church with light.

The "saddle roof" vault, reaching 35 meters high, is another highlight.

Thanks to technical advancements and the collaboration between architect Gillet and engineer Bernard Lafaille, the vault is only 6 cm thick, eliminating the need for interior pillars and allowing for thinner supports. To counter the natural spread of the vault, internal metal tie rods are used, visible if you look uptowards the vault.


More details to Notice

  • The Altar: Made of concrete, the altar appears incredibly light with its drapery design.
  • The Font: Designed by Gillet, the font is shaped like a fish, another timeless Christian symbol.
  • Joan of Arc Sculpture: Created by Jacques Perret from calcined metal, this sculpture symbolizes Royan’s destruction and subsequent rebirth.
  • Guillaume Gillet considered Notre-Dame de Royan his masterpiece and is buried in the church's left aisle under the gallery.

Watch and Learn on my Youtube Channel

For a visual tour, check out this video on my YouTube channel, Marie La Guide. It’s in French, but you can easily activate the English subtitles I’ve created.

If you found this article interesting and learned something new, please share it on social media and leave a comment below!



Notre dame Royan - Central concrete Altar

Joan of Arc - Calcinated metal by Jacques Peret



 To see all of that in pictures, I let you watch the little video below
(Thousand aplologise but only in French right now)
and as usual, if you found this article interesting
and  have learned something from it,
do not hesitate to share it on social networks and leave a little comment below.



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