1. PETER AND PAUL, LE NEUBOURG, FRANCE

 

The le Neubourg plain is a part of France that few English people visit, and those that do have only a passing acquaintance, on the way somewhere else using the Route Nationale that crosses it. Although it is a rich agricultural area, it perhaps lacks the scenic interest of other parts of Normandy. It mainly comprises small villages, matched with their small churches, but at its centre is the market town of le Neubourg and a large church, right in the middle of the town. It’s known that a church was here by the 11th c., but the earliest traces today are 13th c. The region was fought over during the Hundred Years War, when the town – including the church – was burnt in 1447. The whole building was reconstructed under Louis XI between 1461 and 1483, though further work was necessary after damage by the retreating troops of the Duke of Parma in 1592. It’s a large building with a five-bay nave flanked by aisles on each side, topped by a high clerestory and a polygonal chevet at the east end; twin towers flank the façade. The interior has some rich furnishings mainly of the 17th c.; the High altar retable is topped by a Virgin with Holy Child, similarly that in the S aisle is topped by S. Michael. There are eighteen late 17th c. stalls that came, along with some statues, from the dissolved abbey of Saint John after the Revolution, as well as a large 18th century pulpit and 17th c. lectern. Post-WW2, a further restoration repaired the belfry damaged by a tipsy French artilleryman in 1940, and gave the church new glass by Barillet, complementing the 19th c. glass inspired by the abbey of Saint Ouen in Rouen.

 

Simon Cotton