The first two weeks of April I spent in France, in Lyons again, to be precise. No holidays, but a fabric analysing class. Still I had enough time to visit my favourite antique book shop in the old city, the Librairie Diogène.
One book I bought there wasn’t a standard printed book, but a notebook full with poems, songs and drawings, created by a french soldier during his military service and shortly after, between 1898 and 1904. As I bought it on Saturday and browsed through it the same evening, I found something that determined my plans for the next day.
This drawing is near the end of the book, he made it after his service already back home in Lyon. The church isn’t special, but I liked that he had given the exact place where he had been whilst drawing, 8 Rue Burdeau, 5th floor. And he even wrote down the name of the church itself, Eglise du Bon-Pasteur. Much different than the young author more than 100 years ago, I had internet access and was able to search for the address and the church itself.
And it proved to have quite an interesting story, so I decided to spend my Sunday with a little hunt for and into history.
The next day I went to the quarter of Croix-Rousse and to 8, Rue Burdeau. Of course I wasn’t able to access the 5th floor, but it was already very rewarding to have found the address and the house this drawing had been made in. And as in the notebook, I saw the church!
The building itself is pretty standard 19th century historicism, copying romanesque style and erected from 1869/1875 to 1883.
Writing, or better: drawing, at the turn of the century, this church was as good as new when the young soldier saw it through his window. For him it was a contemporary building.
Even being only 20 years of age, the church already had a little flaw (and had had it all the time): The street the church is standing in is very narrow and the hill of the Croix-Rousse-district mounts directly behind it. As is common with churches, a representative staircase was planned. I can’t tell you what happened exactly, but the church stands so close to the street that a staircase in front of the door just isn’t possible. The only solution would have been the demolition of the building on the other side of the road, a military barrack, which was impossible to think of in late 19th century France. As the church was accessible through the side entrance, the main portal was left closed and the staircase never built. Even when the barrack was demolished in 1954 the street and the church were left as such and the main entrance remained inaccessible.
In 1984 the church was desecrated and closed. The Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, since 1948 housing on the other side of the (as I said very narrow) road in said barrack, now in the building that succeeded the demolished barrack since 1960, used it as a showroom afterwards until 2008. Since then it remains closed and is slowly deteriorating. Online you can find some photos of the inside, so obviously at least graffiti sprayers know a way how to get in, I didn’t find it and had to stay outside.
Even if I wasn’t able to access the church, I really liked to spend the day at places where a long forgotten man named Joseph lived and drew a church more than 100 years ago and I wondered what he thought about this stair-less oddity, maybe he even went to mass there and experienced it as what it was, a church, with a choir and prayers and light falling in through the stained glass. Supposing he was a young man in his 20ies back then, he wouldn’t live to see the church close, serve as an exhibition space and a whiteboard for graffiti artists. And depending on how he viewed the church, maybe it was better? Or would he have laughed about it, being secular and atheistic to the bone? We’ll maybe never know…
All information given in this post derive from the above linked Wikipedia-Posts.