Observation of the degradations

Renovation of Notre Dame des Anges Church and its Bell Tower in Collioure

Observation of the degradations

The church and the bell tower have a unique position in the geography of Collioure, which makes it an exceptional scenography. Where else do we see a church of this size sitting literally on the water? This marvel of its architecture however reveals today very serious weaknesses.

With more than 300 years apart the observation of the state of the construction, including the foundations of the church, is the same. According to the records, at the time of its construction from 1684 to 1690, the site was permanently covered by seawater between two phases of works, namely the construction of the walls on a saline base. Olivier Weets, Chief Architect of the Monuments Historique, quotes in 2004: « The monument has benefited from several clean-up and out-of-water campaigns. Despite these various interventions, the problems due to the situation of the church whose east and south facades plunge into the sea persist: strong capillary rise of the sea. combining water and salt produces significant alterations to the masonry/stonework «

The report today is particularly severe on the east side  of the building: outside along the nave, stones and bricks are laid bare, even more flagrant on the outer apse, the mortar that joins the stones has largely disappeared, demonstrating an important gap of 20 cm. The interior bedside is seriously affected, very visible on both sides of the altar with the endangerment of the altarpiece itself. The altarpiece is one of the jewels of Catalan and French Baroque art, the church is its setting and is one of those in Roussillon which houses the prestigious artworks of the genre such as that of Louis Genéres in Baixas, Lazare Tremullas in Perpignan and of course Josep Sunyer at Collioure (1702), Prades, or the hermitage of Font Romeu. A unique ensemble in the Mediterranean basin.

The Church Notre Dame des Anges

(1684-1690): Restoration/rehabilitation Needs
Outside
  • East wall, serious degradation of the plaster: sanitation and plaster, all the wall.
  • South wall, church bedside, very visible shales, serious deterioration of mortar joints resulting in fragility and humidity, with serious consequences for the deterioration of the internal bedside: need for sanitation and deep clogging throughout the bedside outside. Other alternatives of protection with agreement of MH (Monuments Historiques) on classified site.
  • West wall, deterioration of the joints on the facade in places, degradation of the bricks on the wall of the latrines: restoration of the walls.
  • Roofing, tiles broken and torn in places, especially between the western foothills and on the consular room: restoration needed
  • Underwater foundation, deep degradation of the joints under water, largely cracked wall especially under the wall of the rampart contiguous to the church, risk of serious collapse: urgent restoration
Inside
  • Bedside, very obvious and deep degradation of coatings and paints with stones at the base of the altarpiece of the high altar and on each side. Moisture effect evident. Certain extensions of deterioration behind the altarpiece can seriously damage the altarpiece itself.
  • Need to survey the entire wall of the interior bedside, partial removal of the altarpiece to consider for remediation and restoration of the wall of the bedside. Restoration of coatings and paints
  • Note: the comment is for the inside as for the outside. The church supports from its origin pathology of saline environment, the base of the church having withstood the assaults of the sea during its construction. After the frequent stops of the shipyard works, due to sea or high sea packet, the resumption of the construction was carried out on saline deposits even if the lime mortar, it was on the basis of clear water (according to the Memories of the Jean Arnaud, priest and fabricator of Collioure at the time of the construction of the church between 1684 and 1691

The Bell Tower

XIIth – XVIIIth centuries: the needs in restoration

The dimensions

Height: 30 m
Inside diameter: 4,70 m
Overall diameter: 6,40 m

Original materials

  • Lower part (XII-XIII centuries): brown shale
  •  Middle part (XIV – XV centuries): pebbles
  •  Upper part (XVII – XVIII centuries): brown shale (upper gallery and cupola: 1810)
  •  Jointing: lime mortar (just like the church)
Outside
  •  Probable infiltrations on the entire wall of the bell tower.

  •  Possible infiltrations from the upper brick platform supporting the gallery and cupola.

  •  Underwater infiltration around the building (just like the church)

  •  Possible works: surveys, sanitation and clogging. Underwater restoration of the base of the tower. Refreshment of the dome.

Inside

The bell tower has become a real dovecote

  •  Necessary cleaning and sanitation (rubble and droppings up to 40 cm thick) on the ground floor and the 3 floors of the tower including the floor of the bell.
  •  Renovation of walls, clogging and plastering.
  •  Ensure the robustness of the 1st and 2nd floors and the stairs.
  •  Obturate but clear the openings of the bell tower to prevent access to birds. If closing by window (frosted) ensure ventilation of the tower.
  •  Cleaning / restoring the bell.

The bell tower, the very emblem of the city, to which the visitor and colliourencs give guarantees of eternity, of almost 1000 years of existence, became a dovecote and refuge of the seagulls having deposited more than forty centimeters of thickness of very corrosive droppings in the 3 floors that make up the bell tower. The interior walls are severely attacked by infiltrations, consequence of the openings completely gaping and the chimes rest on rickety beams.

Here is the severe observation that the visitor, simple spectator is not able to do because the picturesque image, that the church and the bell tower give, is sufficiently scenographic to satisfy its happiness, but the marvel contains deep weaknesses. Nevertheless they do not escape the observer, better to the educated expert about the degradations of the our heritage monuments we have inherited from our history.

The existence of the International Association of Bell Tower of Collioure (AICC), created in the second half of 2016, was born from these findings. The actions of the Association as well as the donors is to complement, by a foundation to be created, to the heavy investment of rehabilitation of the bell-tower and its church alongside the public and regional contributions to which will return the biggest share of responsibility of the works.

call for donations

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To ensure the sustainability of the Church and the bell tower of Collioure, major renovation and rehabilitation works will be undertaken in 2018 and continued for a few years given the importance of the work to be done.

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