Les Eglises Jurassiennes

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The churches:
Baume l'abbaye
Baume l'église
le Frasnois
Lons le Saunier
Pont de Poitte
le Vaudioux



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le Frasnois

A fascinating little high street church, tucked away.

West tower from the hillside graveyard. Looking east. Modernist window and relics of St-Claude. Memorial to Jean-Pierre Amey, first Priest of le Frasnois. 18th century font.

  Although it is on what passes for a main road around here, and not far from the tourist hotspot of the cascades de Herrisson, I thought this was a lovely little village, and the view over the lake to the north one of the most stunning of the summer. The church is a delight too, set hard against the road and built into the line of houses. Inded, what appears to be the house next door is, in fact, the chancel, containing the sanctuary.

What is now the nave was a chapel built in 1680. this in turn replaced an earlier building of 1596. At the time, le Frasnois was part of Loulle parish, and a bequest on the feast of the Annunciation by the Mouillard family was conditional on a chapel being established here, dedicated jointly to Stlaude and St Roch. Later, it became part of Chatelneuf parish. The tower was added in 1762, the chancel in 1789; both seem to have been intended to enhance the building's significance as a parish church after parochial status was granted in 1738.

The entrance is in the south side of the tower, and you turn at a sharp right-angle as you enter. The long, low church was almost black inside, but a handy light switch is indicated, and in general the church was very welcoming. Unusually for France, there is even a guidesheet.

There is a sense of being in an ancient space that had been beautified in the Vatican II manner, although in fact the great restoration au goût du jour was in 1955. The modern windows are stunning, and give the church a warmth and depth. They were installed in 1965, and are the work of Jean Vuillemey. The centre of the nave has some of the best chalice memorials in the area, and the best is to Jean-Pierre Amey, the first Priest of le Frasnois parish.

When Desire Monnier came this way in 1843, collecting material for his Annuaire du Jura, he had a wonderful surprise. Who would hope to find magnificent treasures of the middle ages in such a place? he observed. But here, you encounter to your great astonishment gilded and painted reliefs, which represent the principal event sin the life of the Holy Virgin: her Nativity, her Annunciation and her Assumption. There you will also find yourself presented with other reliefs, detached from something larger, that illustrate the birth of the Saviour and the adoration of the magi.

Monnier considered that the work was executed with the greatest art and attention that the middle ages could offer, and that the women were dressed in the style of Raphael's virgins. This debris from a rich monastery, he went on, was acquired in the Vaux country at the time when the reforms of Calvin had shattered Catholicism. He concluded that they had probably come from the monastery of Romain-Moutier.

Today there is no trace of them, so perhaps they are in the museum at Lons. Instead, a simple, pretty east end features a 17th century painting of the Crucifixion flanked by two others in the style of the school of Caravaggio. The gilded wooden statue of Saint-Claud is 18th century, and stands on a 16th century font rescued in recent years from a street in Paris where it had supported a statue of Mary.

On the right hand side of the sanctuary is a reliquary uncovered during the 1955 restoration. It now displays relics of Saint-Claud given to the church in 1722; the are in a gilded leather relic case behind fine ironwork. More fine ironwork surrounds the sanctuary.

This is a stunningly lovely church, with a sense of spirituality and continuity. I liked it very much indeed.

Saint-Claud is in the main village street, which forms the D39 between Doucier and la Chaux du Dombief. I found it open.