Notre-Dame, Louviers, France
Between Rouen and Évreux, Louvers is a former cloth-making town that retains a bit of its old grittiness. Like the town, the church was reconstructed after being fought over by the British and French during the Hundred Years’ War.
Starting in the 1440s, its 12th– 13th c. core was given double aisles to the nave and several chapels, the highlight noted bythe ineffable Percy Dearmer: ‘Before us is the south aisle, a wonderful efflorescence of stone which culminates in the porch. There Flamboyance displays itself for all it is worth’. The porch, begun in 1506, is stunning, and you will spend some time in admiring examination before going round to the West door to enter the church.
There is lots of splendid late medieval glass dating from the reconstruction – spot the legend of St Nicholas in the North aisle, or the infant St John, just to the West of the porch. But the most interesting window, probably given by the guild of drapers, is just to your right as you come in through the western door. Originally in the South chapel and made in 1490–1500, it features the Corpus Christi procession of the Blessed Sacrament. Processions were a great part of medieval church life, something we seem to have lost in the modern liturgy. Here a priest carrying a monstrance is surrounded by candle-bearing tradesmen – shearers, wool merchants, dyers and pressers, a community united in their proclamation of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
St Thomas Aquinas wrote: ‘Yea, beneath these signs are hidden. Glorious things to sight forbidden: Signs, not things, are all we see.’
‘When we go before the Blessed Sacrament, let us open our heart; our good God will open his. We shall go to him; he will come to us; the one to ask, the other to receive. It will be like a breath from one to the other’ (the Curé d’Ars).