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Saint Boniface Church

The story

Our village has known several successive places of worship which, each time, have disappeared in the upheavals of history.
During the First World War, the front line stabilized in the Burnhaupt sector from the fall of 1914. The church (dating from 1784), like the whole village, suffered irreparable damage.

From the old church we have a 17th century statue of Saint Sebastian, secondary patron of the parish. After being renovated in 2006 it was placed in the south transept.
When the population returned in 1919, the priority was to clear and rebuild the houses. It was therefore only on September 30, 1928 that the first stone of the current church could be laid. The work was quickly carried out since the baptism of the five new bells was celebrated on June 9, 1929 and the first mass took place on Christmas Eve 1929.


Between audacity and modernity...

According to the wishes of the architect, Paul Gélis, and under the impetus of the parish priest Joseph Muller, the new building is resolutely modern. Only two churches in Alsace were built in this "art-deco" style which was in vogue at the beginning of the 20th century.

At the beginning of the 1930s, the interior decoration and furnishings kept this overall harmony in terms of the choice of colours, materials and figures. This is how we can admire  :

The Schwenkedel organ
The instrument dates from 1932 and was listed as a historical monument in 1992, both for the beauty and originality of its organcase and for its instrumental part. The case was designed by Paul Gélis himself and represents King David's lyre (the front pipes are the strings), which gives the whole an impression of lightness, despite its impressive dimensions.

Article on the organ

The altars and the pulpit
The high altar, the side altars and the pulpit were made in a spirit
  Byzantine  », combining marble with the brilliance of mosaics

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The woodwork
The pews, confessionals and decoration of the choir are the work of the Brutschy workshops in Ribeauvillé.
Very rich decoration has been sculpted, notably on the confessionals where the artist has depicted the seven deadly sins (laziness, pride, gluttony, lust, avarice, anger and envy) in the form of representative animals.
The way of the cross in linden wood is partly listed (made by Berger Rudloff).
Finally, the panels adorning the walls of the choir are worth looking at. Medallions bringing together all the symbols of the Church (bark of Peter, evangelists, mystical rose, alpha and omega, eucharist, paschal lamb, etc.) give meaning to the sacredness of the place.

Entre audace et modernité
L'orgue Schwenkedel
Les autels et la chaire
Les boiseries
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The statue of the Virgin Mary
A more recent work, since sculpted by Erny around 1970 at the request of parish priest Martin Studer, this statue, a mixture of softness and sobriety, has found its place on a side altar following the interior redesign in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

The stained glass windows
Produced in 1930 by the Ott Frères workshops in Strasbourg, the set of stained glass windows immediately strikes the visitor. The shades ranging from the darkest (blue and purple) to the palest (light yellow), the hieratic position of the characters, the scenes where an extraordinary fauna and flora abound, make it one of the major works of the building. Five main paintings - Christ-King of the Universe - Fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise - Nativity - Assumption of the Virgin Mary - Life of Saint John the Baptist - alternate with saints or prophets from the history of the Church.
In a very modern style, in harmony with the architecture and interior furnishings, they convey a figurative language as well as a symbolic one. Indeed, each bay is full of allegories which have their source in the history of Christianity and which require to be decoded by the pilgrim, the parishioner or the visitor. This choice of the architect contributes to the sacredness of the place and to an enhancement of the spiritual life.


The bells
Ordered from Georges Farnier, founder in Robécourt (88), in 1928, the five bells were baptized on June 9, 1929. The new drone bears the inscription  :  "  Ringing of 5 bells restored in the year of grace 1928 by the care of the cooperative of the devastated churches of Haut-Rhin  ".
The ringtone is no longer totally Farnier today, because bell no. 3 was recast by Louis Bollée and his sons, founder in the Loiret, in 1948 following a crack in the old bell. This brings a touch of originality, the ringtone is quite imposing. She is a complete Salve Regina.

Bell           Last name             Year         Diameter (mm)          Weight (kg)          Note

   1              Sacred Heart.       1928           1,535                  2,246             C 3

   2              St-Boniface.       1928           1,218                  1,093             Mi 3

   3              St. Mary         1948           1,024                   648             Floor 3

   4              San Sebastian       1928            912                   460             The 3

   5              Ste Odile         1928            765                   259             C 4

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In 1944, the bells were taken down by the German occupiers in order to be melted down for the artillery of war. Fortunately, the rapid advance of the Allies will prevent their departure, saving our bells from the murderous madness of the men.
The ringing of Burnhaupt-le-Haut is renowned among campanophiles (hear bell lovers) and even campanologists (bell specialists). This is how the Plenum (all the bells ringing on the fly) was recorded twice.

The clock
During the construction of the church, the company Terraillon de Morez (39) was commissioned to equip the building with a mechanical clock that could
  hand to strike the quarter-hours and on the other hand to control the four dials or  watches. This clock nestled in the heart  of the steeple still remains despite its age  valiant and this thanks to a few  people who have it and continue to maintain it.
On a technical level, mechanics
  of origin relies on a system comparable to wall clocks  (comtoise) namely a pendulum and  counterweight giving the necessary force to animate the whole. The piloting of the four dials is ensured by a set of steel rods, gears and gimbals.
The chimes are made through sets of rods and hammers actuated by force levers of the clock. For the quarter hours, two hammers strike the bells of Sainte-Marie and Saint-Boniface alternately, for the hours, a single hammer strikes the bell of the Sacred Heart.

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Over time, this mechanism has been modified only slightly, a first modification was the addition of a quartz clock to control the assembly more precisely and more stably. This quartz clock replaces the principle of the pendulum by providing an impulse every minute. The latest modification concerns the activation of the Angelus ringtone. Until the renovation of the electrical installation in 1989, this bell was coupled to the clock mechanism, since then it has been controlled by a daily programmer.

La statue de la Vierge Marie
Les vitraux
Les cloches

But let's pause for a moment on...

The Genesis window

Placed in the south transept, this set of three bays represents Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the center the tree of knowledge is dominated by the figure of the tempting serpent. The features of his face and the gray blue of his skin leave no doubt to the viewer about his identity. It contrasts with the beauty of the landscape.
The art glassmaker has enriched the picture with luxuriant flora and fauna. More than twenty animals give life to the garden, from the lion to the birds and the hare.
The frozen characters give an impression of realism to the whole. This artistic approach, already close to cubism, makes extensive use of primary colors (green, red, blue, etc.) to mark a return to basics.


A new statue of Saint Boniface

Sacred art is not fixed and each generation can contribute its stone. A statue of the patron saint stood in the church destroyed during the Great War, it was never replaced. Today only one stained glass window in the choir evokes Saint Boniface.
In 2009, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the reconstruction of the building, the Renouons avec les Traditions association endowed the church with a contemporary statue of Saint Boniface. A creation by the Parisian artist Fleur Nabert therefore marks the 21st century in this place.

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Texts: Marc Bohrer, Claude Kirscher
Photo credits: Niala Prod, Marc Bohrer, Claude Kirscher
Video credits: Niala Prod, Bells Haute-saônoises, Campagnobelfortaine

Le citrail de la génèse
Statue de Saint-Boniface
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