The restoration of the great abbey church belfry in Beaulieu-lès-Loches has at last begun, and the Fondation du Patrimoine has launched a fundraising campaign.
|The tower covered in the most intricate scaffolding I've ever seen.|
It stands proudly opposite the 'royal city' of Loches. At an impressive 64 metres high, the great romanesque belltower of the abbey church of Beaulieu-lès-Loches is a community landmark. But over many years it has become a major worry, because of its advanced state of delapidation. In 2011 a stone fell from on high into the neighbouring garden, happily injuring no one.
The spire was constructed in a most unorthodox way. The joints between the stones were inadequate. Many stones are cracked. The belfry must support its own weight, but there was a great risk of collapse so acting quickly was vital. But the estimated cost of restoration was enormous -- way beyond the means of the local authority at 2.5 million euros. The commune decided they could only manage 10% of the cost and they must seek 90% of the finance as grants from the State and the département.
The first stage of the works, which will take 15 months, will concentrate on the 21 metre spire. It's going to be completely demounted, then reconstructed in new semi-hard stone from Tercé. It was apparently obvious as soon as the builders had the chance to get inside the belltower that all the masonry was cracked, and on top of that there were significant patches of green algae.
After the spire is finished it is envisaged that there will be some interior restoration. The bells have been brought down to be cleaned and reworked to mitigate their effect on the structure when they are rung.
- The restoration of the spire -- 1.7 million euros, of which 60% will be met by the State, 30% by the département and 10% by the commune.
- The remaining work, which has not been confirmed yet, will cost €762 110 and is dependent on gaining the following funding -- 60% from the State, 10% from the département, 7.5% raised by public subscription through the Fondation du Patrimoine, 12.5% from major donors, and 10% from the commune.
- Previous restorations -- the building was damaged in the Hundred Years War. The choir and transept were reconstructed in the 15th century. At the end of the 19th century, the belltower was repaired after it was hit by lightning. Degraded limestone blocks were repaired. Then the entire roof was replaced at the end of the 1990s. Following this work the surroundings were spruced up and the building made secure in 2007.
The abbey church of Beaulieu was constructed in several stages from the 11th century. It was built on the foundations of a former abbey founded about 1007 by Foulke Nerra, Count of Anjou, who was buried there in 1040. The building was classified as a Historic Monument in 1852.
We've written about the abbey church at Beaulieu-lès-Loches previously: