Chapel dedicated to St. Joan of Arc


Reconstructed by Marquette University

FOR more than five centuries-no one knows how much longer-and before Columbus was even born-the special little Gothic oratory known as the Chapelle de St. Martin de Sayssuel was important to the noble families of the countryside and to the little French village of Chasse in the Département de L'lsère, Arrondissement de Vienne, twelve miles south of Lyon, six miles north of Vienne, in the Rhone River Valley. There a rambling cluster of buildings grew up around the Chapel, forming the ecclesiastical center of the village and of the surrounding châteaux.
         Like most European medieval structures, it was not built in a single generation but showed the accretions of various periods and architectural styles, a living record in miniature of the history of the little village and of France.
         After the French Revolution, when the archives of many of the French churches were lost or destroyed, it gradually fell into ruin and wind-swept dilapidation.
         Then, after the First World War, Jacques Couëlle, a brilliant young architect and archeologist from Aix-en-Provence, passed through Chasse and came upon the Chapel which he excitedly referred to as "ce monument absolument unique en son genre." Couëlle attained fame as one of France's leading restorers of ancient buildings, reconstructing a thirteenth century château at Castellaras, restoring an abbey in Spain, and assembling medieval sculptures for the Louvre. Today he has become one of France's most important modern architects, responsible for the developments at Castellaras-le-Neuf on the slopes of the Alpes Maritimes.
         In the 1920's Couëlle made meticulously careful architectural drawings of the Chapel at Chasse, taking numerous photographs and measuring and numbering stones. All of these drawings and photographs are stamped with his special seal which is reproduced here:

In 1926 Gertrude Hill Gavin, daughter of James J. Hill, the American railroad magnate, acquired the Chapel, and it was Couëlle who negotiated its transfer to her fifty-acre estate at Jericho, Long Island, in the New World.
         When the Chapel was dismantled, the Mayor of Chasse collected, from the remaining records and from the older aristocratic families of the countryside, some of the ancient traditions associated with the Chapel, "the stones of which you have removed some days ago." To Couëlle he further wrote:

The Chapel in question must have been built in the fifteenth century, perhaps even before, and was called the Chapelle de St. Martin de Sayssuel . . . this Chapel, dating from the Middle Ages, formed a small edifice which was without doubt used for devotions and for the burial of influential people of the community.
Among the many historic memorials in the Chapel he especially noted the tomb-still a part of the sanctuary floor-of Chevalier de Sautereau, a former Chatelain of Chasse, who was "Compagnon d'Armes" of Bayard (1473-1524), the famous French knight "Sans peur et sans reproche" (without fear and without reproach).
         Stone-by-stone the Chapel was dismantled and shipped in 1927 to Long Island amidst anxieties lest the French government stop the exportation. These fears were well founded, for shortly thereafter the French "Monuments Historiques" halted shipments of such monuments abroad.
         The reconstruction plans for Long Island were made by one of America's leading architects, John Russell Pope, who also planned the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., for Andrew W. Mellon and designed the Frick Mansion in New York, which has since become the Frick Museum.
         Added to the Chapel were two important and priceless treasures-duly noted by John Russell Pope on his blueprints-with which numerous legends are associated: the early Gothic altar and the famous Joan of Arc Stone. The stories surrounding the latter are especially interesting. They tell of how Joan of Arc (1412-31) prayed before a statue of Our Lady standing on this stone and at the end of her petition kissed the stone which ever since has been colder than the stones surrounding it. What seems certain is that the niche, of which it is a part, is of the same period as Joan of Arc and as the Chapel.
         One of America's most distinguished stained glass artists, Charles J. Connick of Boston, who was responsible for much of the stained glass in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, was commissioned by Mrs. Gavin to design and execute four stained glass windows in the style and colors of the vitraux of The Sainte Chapelle in Paris. He set them in the original stone mullions and traceries from Chasse.
         On Long Island the Chapel was attached to an impressive French Renaissance château that Mrs. Gavin also brought stone-by-stone from France.
         In 1962 the Gavin estate passed into the possession of Mr. and Mrs. Marc B. Rojtman. Shortly before they were to move in, a fire, which smoldered for sixteen hours, gutted much of the château but almost miraculously spared the Chapel.
         The exterior facade of the château, which in the sixteenth century belonged to the royal line of the Dukes of Orléans-Longueville at Melun in France, was saved. This the Rojtman's presented to the Metropolitan Museum where it is scheduled to be installed at the east end of the Medieval Sculpture Hall, where it will survey the Spanish Cathedral Gates of the Hearst Collection and the J. P. Morgan Collection of Medieval Art. For this gift the Metropolitan Museum of Art made the Rojtmans "Fellows in Perpetuity."
         In 1964 the Rojtmans presented the Chapel to Marquette and had it dismantled and sent to the campus for the University to reconstruct. They also gave numerous furnishings for the Chapel, including a crucifix, banner, a dozen priedieux, torchères, candlesticks, lectern, missal stand, vestments, and antependium-all of approximately the same period as the Chapel. In addition they presented an early Gothic antique font, probably of the twelfth or early thirteenth century.
         The dismantling of the Chapel on Long Island began in June 1964 and took nine months to complete. Each stone was marked in three places: green for the top, red for the bottom, the inside carrying the number of the stone in relation to the others. Eighteen thousand antique terra cotta roof tiles were removed and packed. A fleet of trucks, each truck carrying forty thousand pounds, brought the Chapel stones to Milwaukee, where the first shipment arrived in November 1964. After the material was stored for the winter and the ground was cleared, reconstruction on the campus started in July 1965.
         Architectural plans for the reconstruction at Marquette were initiated by the French architect Lucien David and revised and completed by the noted Ernest Bonnamy, a graduate of the French Beaux Arts and a member of the famous firm of Kahn and Jacobs, New York. The rebuilding was done by Siesel Construction Company with the careful supervision and cooperation of Roy H. Dirks of the Office of Campus Planning and Construction.
         The principles of reconstruction were those employed at the Cloisters, a division of the Metropolitan Museum of Art at Fort Tryon Park, New York. Several changes were made to adapt the Chapel to the campus: the nave was lengthened, necessitating the addition of several windows; the tomb of Chevalier de Sautereau and the niche were moved to the left and the sacristy to the right-restoring them to their original positions in France-and such modern concessions as in-the-floor electric heating were introduced.
         After traveling from Chasse to Long Island and then to Marquette, the Chapel so fittingly dedicated to St. Joan of Arc on May 26, 1966, has come to a new home far from the Rhone River Valley where it stood for over five hundred years.
         "It is doubtful," wrote Milton Samuels, Chairman of French and Company, New York, in the official appraisal papers dated April 9, 1964, "if such an historic architectural monument would be permitted to leave France today."
         The Chapel is, to our knowledge, the only medieval structure in the entire Western Hemisphere dedicated to its original purpose: Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam.

John Pick (+l981)
Former Professor of English
Chairman, The University Committee on the Fine Arts
Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (London)

Illustrations

France in 1429 Showing Chasse, the original site of the Chapel

Document of the Mayor of Chasse summarizing the ancient history and traditions of the Chapel

The sanctuary arch in France; tombstone of De Sautereau at Chasse

Main entrance and sacristy entrance at Chasse

Chapel reconstructed on Long Island; Main entrance reerected on Long Island

Rose Window, Stained Glass for Rose and Sanctuaryt Windows

Chapel stones arriving; Masons installing window; Stones being hoisted; Stones numbered

Exterior being faced with rubble; Roofers laying tiles; Blacksmith fabricating grill; Gothic front being lowered

Sanctuary as reconstructed; Details of sacristy doorway and Corbel angel

Placing Cross on Spire

See also Contemporary photos of the Chapel on the campus of Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin(not part of this brochure)

Copyright 1966 by Marquette University. Reprinted with Permission

 

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