ST CAPRAIS, CARSAC, FRANCE
Carsac church, set in a field outside a small village, typifies its genre, with nothing external to differentiate it from hundreds of other humble churches in la France profonde. A small 12th c. building, with a low central tower that scarcely tops the nave roof, it has one of the internal domes so characteristic of Romanesque churches in this area. Later generations added aisles and revaulted the nave, giving the church some striking Renaissance capitals. Yet it is some of the furnishings that make Carsac church special.
In the inauspicious years of the Vichy government, the cure, Roger Deltreil, led a restoration campaign from 1940 to 1942. The church has striking 20th c. glass from the celebrated Limoges studios of Francis Chigot, depicting St Caprais, first Bishop of Agen, and St Augustine, patron saint of the parish. During World War II, the Russian-born artist Leon Zack sought refuge here, his Jewish roots making him vulnerable in Paris. After the war he returned to Paris, but did not forget Carsac. He became increasingly interested in sacred art and in 1949 created a strikingly abstract and rather austere set of Stations of the Cross (in addition to a terracotta relief of St Mary Magdalene).
The Stations feature verses by Paul Claudel that are always thoughtful and at times quite emotive. Thus the second station: Rendez-moi patient a mon tour du bois I Que vous voulez queje porte I Car ilfautporter notre croix I avant que notre croix nous porte (We have to carry our cross, before our cross carries us); and the eleventh: Cette main que le bourreau tord I C’est la droite du tout-puissant I On a lie I’agneau par les pieds I On attache I’omnipresent (The hand which the torturer twists is the right hand of the Almighty).
Consider: ‘This cross God now sends you he has.. .weighed with his own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you’ (St Francis de Sales).
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Meditate upon the events of ‘.J I the first Easter.