Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Consolation

In the rather small street, Rue Jean-Goujon (named after the renaissance sculptor) there are two churches, one referred to as a chapel, Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Consolation, the other one referred to as a cathedral, Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Armenian Apostolic Church).  They are both rather modest in size, were built rather simultaneously (1898-1904) and have the same architect, Albert Guilbert (1866-1949, who later followed the “fashion” and made some interesting buildings in Art Nouveau and Art Deco design).

More or less occupying the space between these churches – before they were built – a temporary building, the Bazar de la Charité, could be found here. It served for an annual charity event, organised by the French Catholic aristocracy … and in 1897 a catastrophe arrived - a fire which cost the life of 126 people and, of course, many more were seriously injured. The bazaar was held in some kind of a wooden shed, decorated like a medieval street. A special attraction was a "cinematograph"… and the equipment caught fire. Where were the signs for the exits…? Panic! The event made headlines in many newspapers, maybe also as many people – especially women – were of high ranks. The most famous person who died was the Duchess of Alençon, sister of the Empress “Sissi” and once the fiancée of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. She was born in 1847, meaning that she died at the age of 50.

Very shortly after the disaster, money was collected and the above mentioned Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Consolation was built. On this Paris map from 1894 we can see where the bazaar was situated… and on the Google Earth map, where the chapel today is situated.

Here are some views from the interior of the chapel. The ceiling has been painted by Albert Maignan (1845-1908) who also e.g. decorated the walls of the restaurant Le Train Bleu (see previous post) and of Opéra Comique (see previous post).

There is of course place made to commemorate the 126 victims. You can find a Veiled Christ, which somehow refers to the famous "Cristo Velato" in the Capella Sansevero in Naples (see previous post).

Over the years the donors have opened the church to different catholic communities with the hope of keeping the chapel in shape. This is costly and the Italian community which used to occupy the place has lately been forced to leave and has been replaced by what is referred to as “FSSPX”, the Society of Pius X, an extreme fraternity which among other things maintains the traditional Latin mass.

A special attention is of course paid to the Duchess of Alençon. Here we can see her portrayed young and just a year before she died. Something new for the time, at least in France, before the DNA, was the first-time identification of bodies with the help of dentists’ medical cards. Five people were identified this way, including the Duchess, thanks to some gold fillings... and here we can see her card.

She is buried in the Royal Chapel at Dreux. Her tomb effigy was originally made by Louis-Ernest Barrias (1841-1905), who has made a number of well-known statues on which I have already reported, La Défense (see here), the Young Girl on the tomb of Gustave Guillaumet (see here), Maria Deraismes (see here) and Bernard Palissy (see here). The effigy was considered to be too violent for the tomb and has been replaced - but can still be seen.


Maria Russell said...

Always a pleasure to browse your impeccable and interesting posts!
Love the architecture of that "modest" church...And the Veiled Christ! ¡Que maravilla!
The other "maravilla" seems to be the Duchess of Alençon. Most of the Wittelsbach ladies were famous for their good looks. Among them, there was once the Princess Augusta, wife of Eugène de Beauharnais, the son of the Empress Josephine.
And those heartbreaking illustrations of the fire...the horror!

Thank you, Peter.

Jeanie said...

Fascinating and so very sad. I remember reading about Sissi but not her sister. How very beautiful the church is.

claude said...

Magnifique et intéressante publication !
Eglise belle tant à l'intérieur qu'à l'extérieur.