Friday, August 22, 2008

France’s historic Joan of Arc chapel on Marquette Univ. campus, Milwaukee

Several years ago I took a couple pictures of the Joan of Arc chapel on the grounds of Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. To be more specific, it was 1978. I was a student there, and decided to shoot a roll of film of the general campus.That was in early spring. Sometime during the winter I also shot four pictures of the Joan of Arc chapel which is also on the campus.
The story of how the chapel came to be there is a long and twisting tale. The full story is available at the Marquette website, which gives several pages to the story and pictures of the chapel. You can see that material here -- But I just wanted a chance to put up these pictures somewhere. One might also raise the issue of whether France’s national treasures would ever have been allowed to leave the country now -- and the answer is of course NO.

One might protest that the chapel had fallen into ruin, like many other historical sites, after the French Revolution. The chapel along with a French chateau was brought to the United States brick by brick, each carefully marked top and bottom and side -- for reconstruction not just once but twice.
Gertrude Hill Gavin, daughter of James J. Hill, the American railroad magnate, bought the Chapel in 1926, and transferred it to her fifty-acre estate on Long Island, New York.

From the website: The Chapel in question must have been built in the fifteenth century, perhaps even before, and was called the Chapelle de St. Martin de Sayssuel…this Chapel, dating from the Middle Ages, formed a small edifice which was without doubt used for devotions and for the burial of influential people of the community.
Among the many historic memorials in the Chapel he especially noted the tomb -- still a part of the sanctuary floor -- of Chevalier de Sautereau, a former Chatelain of Chasse, who was "Compagnon d'Armes" of Bayard (1473-1524), the famous French knight "Sans peur et sans reproche" (without fear and without reproach).Stone-by-stone the Chapel was dismantled and shipped in 1927 to Long Island amidst anxieties lest the French government stop the exportation. These fears were well founded, for shortly thereafter the French "Monuments Historiques" halted shipments of such monuments abroad.
In 1962 the Gavin estate passed into the possession of Mr. and Mrs. Marc B. Rojtman. Shortly before they were to move in, a fire, which smoldered for sixteen hours, gutted much of the chateau but almost miraculously spared the Chapel…In 1964 the Rojtmans presented the Chapel to Marquette and had it dismantled and sent to the campus for the University to reconstruct.
One can hardly argue that the chapel has not been cared for or has not been accessible to visitors. The chapel is only open for limited hours, but anyone can ask for an appointment to meet a curator for a tour.
I myself asked for a tour visit, and had a tour guide all to myself. He showed me the quartz crystal crucifix -- the bar-shaped pieces of rock crystal are held together by a framework of wire. But no one really knows how the workmen of the period could bore into rock crystal without cracking it.
The bones of the saint are also in the hands of Marquette University staff. Whatever bones were recovered after she was burned were supposedly saved in this curlicued wooden box -- about the size of a cigar box. Given the brisk business in religious relics in medieval times, I am a bit skeptical, shall we say, about the real identity of the bones.
“The St. Joan of Arc Chapel is "the only medieval structure in the entire Western Hemisphere dedicated to its original purpose.” -- Marquette website