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A History of the St. Joan of Arc Chapel

By John Pick (d.1981)
Former Professor of English
Chairman, The University Committee on the Fine Arts
Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (London)

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

The chapel as it stood in the French village of Chasse, twelve miles south of Lyon in the early 1920s.

families of the countryside and to the little French village of Chasse in the Département de L'Isère, 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 château.

Like most European medieval structure, 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.

Saved by Couëlle

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 chateau 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.


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