Three years ago, Olivier de Rohan had an illumination while meeting a few students from Junior Enterprise at Ecole du Louvre, the art school which trains most French curators. As President of « Association pour la Sauvegarde de l’Art francais », he restores unlisted pre 1789 churches all around France. While talking to the students, he had the idea of sending them around the country, like « missi dominici » to find paintings and sculptures to restore. Oriane Guineau, a young woman from the program, chose a beautiful 17 th century, polychrome oak wood Christ, from the Noyon cathedral, which had been abandoned in the « jubé » room. I decided to follow her work and thanks to her, I discovered one of the most charming little towns from Picardie, in the North of France.
After one year of local fund raising, she was presenting the project to citizens of Noyon (population 15 000) and to the cultural deputy mayor Nicole Quainon. I had no idea that Charlemagne was crowned there King of the Franks in 768, and that Hugues Capet became King of France in 987 in Noyon.
Nor did I know, and I think few people do, that Jean Calvin (1509-1564), founder of calvinism, was born and raised there. A charming little museum of Reform is set in his house.
The christ to be restored is influenced in its style by the counter reform and the importance for catholics of establishing works of art as a medium with God. This movement was started at the Trente Council in 1563.
Noyon was a powerful galo roman town and later the Abbey of St Eloi (bishop of Noyon) was founded there, increasing its power and wealth. The cathedral, built in the 12 th and 13 th century, is magical (especially in the sunlight of a bright December afternoon) and I was lucky to sit through the organ rehearsal of Christmas mass.
Joseph Félix Bouchor, a local artist exhibited in the Musée du Noyonnais is an orientalist who painted in the army. His works will be shown at the end of January by director of museums, Benjamin Granjon. What a busy little town and what a good example of France’s provincial artistic wealth!
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