In 1950, during the construction of Collège-Notre Dame de Jamhour, a competition consisting in designing a church that would gather all the students of the college was launched. The winner was a young French architect, Jacques Bosson. Though the college was short of money, the place of the church was kept untouched in the middle of the school buildings. In 1964, Father Bonnet-Eymard, Rector of the college, decided to start the construction of the church.
Mr. Jacques Bosson was thus asked to carry out the project. Taking profit of the advantages of cement, a modern material, the architect removed the pillars and conceived the praying area within a circumference in which the attendance could see the altar that was not in the middle of the church but rather at the ¾ of the circle. That way, everybody would stand in front of the altar; behind, would be the sacristy separated by the skylight upon which the vaults of the roof reposed.
A church made of concrete is resonant; this is why it was decided to cover the whole lot with ‘ramlé’ stone, a porous warm color stone that absorbs the echo.
The Stained Glass
The architect contacted a glassmaker in Charters (France), Maître Gabriel Loire. His technique was modern; instead of using plates of glass tinted from the block, he took (about 6 cm thick) slabs tinted from the block. They were stuck one to the other with cement instead of lead or plaster.
The stained glass is not figurative or representational; it does not show any figure, the drawings being symbolic.
Gabriel Loire entitled his stained glass “Hortus conclusus”, the Enclosed Garden, symbolizing Heaven on Earth, the Celestial Paradise of our soul in communion with God. The Enclosed Garden is the Sacred Garden of the Song of Songs. It is a backup for the peace and joy quest, a quest led by God since it leans upon nature, his masterpiece and his creation, filled with symbols.
Molded to be the link with God, similar to a giant marguerite, the church of Notre-Dame de Jamhour stands at the top of the hill to greet us. Nature around dances with God’s grace and every detail accompanies us towards the Virgin Mary awaiting us.
We step inside; the church is welcoming. The canopy of Heaven, with its immobilized big waves, embraces the Light. The reflection of the stained glass draws the limit between heaven and earth.
We pad in the big sanctuary and feel this immense forest in which the eyes fly upon the bluish glows where the moon, symbolizing the Virgin Mary, travels upwards.
No tree, no leaf, and yet a whole garden dancing upon the light that twinkles all over and trickles within the vaults.
Mary comes nearer, all blue and beautiful. The almond trees spread upwards in awe to reach the heart of the stars. The roses bow down in prayer. Jesus brushes the boughs of a cedar…
In this blue ocean, the communion with God takes place. One stained glass leads us to another until we feel the red Sun of Passion: a true love story.
- The Church of Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour: >> View Movie << (2003-05-01)