A visit to St Joseph Church, Le Havre, France

Posted on: September 5th, 2018

During the summer we were fortunate to visit St Joseph Church, Le Havre, France. I love visiting new places and seeing different buildings.

This church is a beautiful piece of Architecture. It is on the site of a previous church which was bombed in 1944, the whole city was destroyed. August Perret was the Architect for the project, who was the teacher and mentor to the Swiss architect, Le Corbusier. The design is based on a square base shaped as a Greek cross. This supports the bell tower above and everything focuses upwards. There is no central aisle, everything focuses on the bell tower and the communion table below.

‘Thus everything is visible, even more so, everything must be seen, there is nothing to hide in that type of organization:the posts, the columns and the slabs are to the building what the skeleton is to the animal; and if the reinforced concrete structure is not worth being apparent, then the architect did not fulfil his mission.’ Auguste Perret, ‘Modern Museum’, 1929.

The architect worked with Father Marie whose design principle was ‘God is the centre where the spirit rises.’

St Joseph church contains 12768 pieces of coloured glass they were designed by Marguerite Hure. The layout is geometric with a basis of seven colours. The darkest colours are at the base of the tower and get lighter as they go towards the top. This lengthens the feel of the 107m tower. The work she carried out in close collaboration with Perret was greatly appreciated by him,

‘You want your Church to be beautiful. You also want it to be pleasant. Then, a woman has to take care of the windows.’ Auguste Perret.

Externally the church’s single, central tower dominates the city skyline, it is easily visible from the city’s port. Perret’s vision created a building resembling a lantern, now fondly referred to as the “lantern tower” or the “lighthouse at the heart of the city.”

The whole building is constructed from reinforced poured concrete, the timber shuttering has been removed and the patterning on the concrete from the timber gives a beautiful decoration and texture to the surface. It is beautiful, there is an amazing sense of peace. An architectural masterpiece coming out of a desperate situation.