Why restore the frontage and the stained-glass windows of the Grand Chapel at the Saint-Sulpice seminary? Well, simply because this chapel is a wonderful heritage to be saved and protected. It owns unique architectural elements: for instance, the mouldings of its arches (in other words, its stucco), sculpted in low and high reliefs and painted in polychromy, are quite unequalled in the Paris region. Through its restoration, the Society of the Priests of Saint-Sulpice enable the public to discover and to enjoy a serene and peaceful place.
This Grand Chapel was built at the end of the 19th century on the premises of the so-called Mollevaut chapel (Mollevaut was the rector of the Solitude in 1830). Its plan was handed to architect Edouard Bérard who imagined a two-levelled palatine chapel, reminding that of the Versailles palace, and used style elements that can remind the visitor of Our Lady of Fourvière (Lyon) or of the Montmartre basilica (Paris).
Seven trades and professions joined their efforts to restore the outside walls of the Grand Chapel and its stained-glass windows.
The stonecutters cleaned the cut stone facings, replaced the broken, eroded or disintegrated stones, and repaired the sealings which let the rainwater trickle inside the building and deteriorate the paintings in the lower chapels.
The roofers repaired the lead gutters which had been eroded and cracked by bad weather, the coverings of the balustrades, cornices and rampants, and the roof ridges of the apsidal chapels.
During that time, the carpenters were treating the wooden doors and windows, and the painters were sanding and painting all the wooden parts and the wire screens the locksmiths had brushed and restored.
The glassmakers took down the glass-stained windows, and moved them to their workshop where they cleaned them, checked them and treated them; they made additional safety windows, a brand new technology, to protect the old stained-glass windows against stones being thrown, birds and bad weather without any loss of light.
Last of all, the bronze craftsmen took down the sculpted group and moved it to their workshop where they took the dirt off outside and inside, filled the cracks, strengthened the metal structure, and polished the whole sculpture to protect it against acid bird droppings and bad weather.
This project lasted two years, under the direction of Hervé Baptiste, architect in chief of the French ‘Monuments historiques’, and the leadership of Daniel Ménard, the master-builder who designed this restoration project and implemented it. The result is such that the Society of Saint-Sulpice, encouraged and supported by the local authorities, among which a traditional and dedicated partner of the Society, i.e. the city of Issy-les-Moulineaux, and by private individuals, is considering restoring the inside of the Grand Chapel. Indeed, not only can you admire the height of the columns, the brightness of the windows, the Marian iconography, the chancel’s gorgeous setting, the organ, the painting representing the Assumption of the Virgin Mary; you can also and foremost live a moment of blessed peace in this chapel.