Once a week, on Thursdays at 6.00 pm, a mass is celebrated in the church of Giverny. Everybody is most welcome, especially tourists, even if they are not Catholics, even if they don’t speak French, as long as they are respectful.
Expect locals to smile at you with some curiosity in the eyes. They are eager to know who you are and where you are from, but won’t ask.
The mass starts soon after the old bells stop chiming. There are two of them, a little one that has a high sound and a big one that is lower.
If you are like me, you will prefer not to sit on the first row of chairs, to mimic the faithfuls who know when to stand up or sit down. It feels good to be among them, because churches are not monuments only. Their stones retain all the faith of the humans who built them and prayed in them. The parishioners of today are their beating heart.
The church of Giverny looks beautiful! The works are almost finished by now, they have lasted three years.
Everything was scanned, repaired or replaced, from the roaster on the top of the spire to the murals inside of the choir. The result is stunning.
The church of Giverny deserves this attention. The oldest part dates back to the 11th Century.
Claude Monet and his family celebrated their religious events in this sanctuary.
Monet is buried in the nearby cemetery.
It was a years’ long dream, yet a frightening one. Finally I took a deep breath, asked the mayor and the priest for permission. To my own surprise I was given the keys.
I felt like Alice in Wonderland. The keys didn’t look odd nor old. They were absolutely normal. But they opened a very special realm.
In Vernon’s church, a narrow door opens onto a spiral staircase that leads to the pipe organ. I knew that if you go on climbing you will reach the turrets and have an amazing view over the town.
I shut the medieval door behind me and started walking up the stairs. There was hardly enough space for one person, but there wasn’t any chance I would meet somebody else coming down.
It was a very strange feeling to be there alone. These backstage parts of the big church seldom have visitors. They look like their makers have just left them. You can almost feel the presence of the stone carvers and masons of the 15th century in the perfectly arranged steps and wall stones. Was I welcome with my cameras?
My heart was beating, but no time to hesitate. I had reached a narrow door. One of the keys opened it, and I was on the northern terrace in front of the House of Good Old Times, the tourist office.
The church and the half-timbered house were so close that they seemed to be speaking. I was afraid to slip on the smooth stones. I carefully closed the door and went on, higher and higher.
Finally I reached the top of the turret and had access to a small balcony. It is like being at the top of the big Wheel. You know you are safe, but you don’t feel you are. The view over Vernon was stunning. Town hall, houses, hills on the background, and over this a very norman sky full of lovely clouds. The pigeons looked at me with astonishment.
The strangest up there is to notice that so many stones are carved, adornated, although nobody can see them. The stone carvers of the Middle ages worked for the sight of God.
It was easier though slightly giddy to go down the spinning staircase. I felt relieved to reach the ground floor, but also sad to close the narrow door of the pipe-organ behind me, and even sader to have to turn back the magic keys.