Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chapels on Hills

Across France, from the Sacré Coeur in Paris to St-Michel de l'Aguille in Le Puy, churches large and small perch on high ground. In Alsace-Lorraine, Susie and I visited two sites with chapels on hills. As is sometimes the case, the less spectacular building is the more interesting.

The village of Dabo, about 20 miles west of Strasbourg, lies below a dramatic sandstone rock. On this rock stands the Chapelle Saint-Léon, which was built in 1889, roughly contemporaneous with the Sacré Coeur. I think the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War saw the rise of a nationalistic Catholicism, and these churches, like the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes, consecrated in 1876, reflect that movement.

From the Dabo rock, you can see for miles across the Vosges.

The chapel of Mont St-Pierre, located about 12 miles east of Metz, is much less grandiose. Indeed, the Mont St-Pierre itself, while certainly a high spot in its topography, stretches the definition of "mont."

But its history goes back centuries; in fact, there may have been a Roman temple on this spot. For centuries, there was a large church here that served as the parish church for the handful of villages in the area. The church was linked to the Benedictine monks of the St-Pierre-aux-Nonnains monastery in Metz--a building that itself was built in the Third Century as a Roman basilica. As the surrounding villages built their own churches, the St-Pierre church lost its purpose. The church was razed in 1854, and the commemorative chapel was built in 1865. The Mont St-Pierre also has a monument remembering French, American and Polish forces who fought in World War II.

Even if the Mont St-Pierre is not the most rugged of peaks, it still offers beautiful views of the Lorraine countryside.

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