A simple postcard match silently reveals the carnage of 1944 without saying a word. See how Rue Saint Jean has changed? Brillaud Laujardière was the chief architect responsible for Caen’s reconstruction after WW2. His forward looking design blew fresh air into once narrow streets, planned for a world with cars and around our little church had many reasons to move the road.
Look at the same view as our postcard in 1944. What matters here is creating homes, mending the broken heart of this ancient town. Lining up historic plans matters less than remembering the old name but celebrating a future with new building and clean lines that have never seen war.
The church of Saint-Jean in Caen has rarely had an easy time of it for long. The first stones were laid in a bog sometime in the eleventh century alongside a Roman road. Since then Saint Jean has endured over 1000 years of enthusiasts shoring ups it’s ecclesiastical beauty. There has always been a bit of a tilt.
This church wasn’t first on the list for renovation after the war, Abbeys built by William the Conqueror took a fair priority. But the people of Caen are fond of their wonky church, overshadowed by Château de Caen just a few yards up the road.
Renovations took many years. The windows destroyed in 1944 amongst the final features to be replaced.
Then in 1969 the little church was ready for some final touches and a brilliant French artist, Danièle Perré, was asked to replace the windows in l’eglise Saint Jean.
You saw our dull match? A plain street with a few bits of church stones in the background? Forget them – Danièle did. She remembered what a church stands for; the journeys made by Christians in terrible, frightening times to find a better world. Brief scenes of complete love and understanding. Moments in time that try to explain a true faith.
Of course some of the faithful were horrified. They thought only to replicate the remarkable medieval windows lost in 1944. But of course it was impossible. That world has gone forever.
The decision to replace the windows with designs completely new was brave and as you will see hugely successful.
A self-taught artist, Danièle understood the church-goers of Caen wanted to be raised up above the rubble and meet face to face the heroes of their oldest, most precious, stories.
Those stories involves a world Danièle recognised, a world of storms and golden suns. she created new windows with a rare passion.
The journalist and art critic Frank Elgar described the work of Danièle Perré as “both voluntary and imaginative, tough and tender, sensitive and intellectual.”
Along a dull road in Caen you can go and see the windows of l’eglise Saint Jean in Caen for yourself.
We only envy you the chance to see them for the first time.
Windows Église Saint Jean, Caen by Danièle Perré