St. Nicholas Chapel
St. Nicholas Chapel, or the Buvignier Chapel
At the crossroads of the Rue Saint Pierre and the Rue Mazel at the very heart of the city stands an imposing yet majestic building which was restored in 2007. This now desecrated former church is a real jewel in the crown of Verdun’s heritage.
Jesuit architect René Maugrain built the chapel between 1731 and 1735. Having been connected to the Jesuit college founded by Bishop Nicolas Psaume in 1570 (now the Collège Buvignier, hence the building being commonly known as the ‘Chapelle Buvignier’), the church was where the Jesuit brothers held their services. It also housed the tomb containing the heart of Nicolas Psaume, who died in 1575. Psaume’s remains were moved to Verdun Cathedral in 1990, when the cathedral was celebrating its thousand-year anniversary.
The chapel takes its name from the first church on the site which belonged to St. Nicolas de Gravière hospital.
The architecture and decorative style of the chapel are influenced by two major sources, the first of which is the Lorraine-born tradition of hall churches, where the internal volume of the building is amplified and unified by a series of side naves, of the same height as the central nave, and tall bays.
The second influence comes from the religious architecture of the 17th Century, during which the Jesuits popularised a classical layout and plentiful decorative features.
The ancient columns supporting the archway and the pilasters on the façade, topped with Ionic capitals adorned with plant-based motifs, are prime examples of this.
Vestiges of war
The World War I bombings left bullet marks on the original façade of the building which are still clearly visible today. Such damage has been maintained for the purposes of illustrating the monument’s history through the vicissitudes of time. Covering up the damage would, of course, have meant sacrificing the authenticity of the building.