It had been seven years since the faithful of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste parish, in Sceaux (Hauts-de-Seine), had been unable to attend a mass in their church. The thirteenth-century building was under restoration work since the end of 2014. Last Saturday, May 21, the doors of the church reopened and its bells rang again during a symbolic key-handing ceremony to the parish priest, Father Jean-Baptiste Alsac.
« It was a big construction site, but it was necessary, the church was collapsing, » explains the mayor (UDI) of the city, Philippe Laurent. Because the building does not date from yesterday: a first chapel was built at the beginning of the thirteenth century. It was then enlarged in the following centuries. In 1926, it was added to the supplementary inventory of historical Monuments; which means that it is of remarkable interest on a regional scale – not national, like the classified sites -.
12 million euros of work
Today it is the oldest building in the municipality, located in the city center, between the market and the departmental estate of Sceaux. But it has already been deteriorating for several decades. The first consolidation works were commissioned by the city council in the early 2000s, but they were not enough.
This time, 12 million euros were invested, 60% of which was by the municipality. The rest was funded by grants from the State, the region, the department and the heritage foundation. Under the direction of Mélanie Maillard, the first phase of work made it possible to rehabilitate and consolidate the north aisle and the first spans of the choir.
Painted decorations on the vaults and walls of the choir
The second phase allowed the restoration of the masonry, the restoration of the bell tower, the frame, as well as the organ, the ancient altars and the nave with their painted decorations and stained glass windows. Finally, the last stage allowed the restoration of the facade as well as all the interior spaces. It led to a total closure of the church for 13 months, during which parishioners had to attend masses at the church of St Stanislas Blagis, in the neighboring commune of Fontenay-aux-Roses.
No less than twenty-six companies and workshops specializing in heritage intervened on this site: carpenters, sculptors, stonemasons, master glassmakers … Beyond the need to solidify the building, the work also made it possible to make discoveries: decorations painted on the vaults and the walls of the choir of the church. Previously hidden, they have been brought to light and have allowed the building to regain colors.