Every architecture lover has probably already heard about the Cité Radieuse, an impressive vertical village in Marseille designed by Le Corbusier. But, did you know that this Franco-Swiss architect, in 1955, also built a magnificent concrete chapel? Situated on the hill of Bourlémont in Ronchamp, Bourgogne Region, this chapel is called - Notre Dame du Haut (Our Lady of the Heights). When visiting Eastern France, this most incredible place is a must-see.
In the Middle Ages, a small chapel was built above Ronchamp on the ruins of the Roman temple. This chapel was destroyed in a fire in 1913. Rebuilt between the two World Wars, it was again completely demolished in 1944. Finally, after World War II, the inhabitants of Ronchamp decided to rebuilt their chapel. This new project was entrusted to Le Corbusier, the famous architect already known as the designer of the incredible concrete housing units. The Notre Dame du Haut was built between 1954 and 1955, and it was listed as a French historical monument in 1965. In 1999, this chapel was labeled "Patrimony of the 20th century" and since 2016, it was also classified as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only a few steps from this chapel, the visitors can see the building of a convent. Made in 2011, by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano, the project of this convent was considered controversial. Its opponents criticized its proximity to the chapel. But today, this building is nicely integrated into the architectural ensemble of this site.
Notre Dame du Haut looks like something you have probably never seen before. You will be amazed to see this chapel, which is a real architectural masterpiece. It is, at the same time, square and round, and low and high. Made of concrete and stone, it seems that its roof floats above the thick walls. In the interior of the chapel, the light comes from asymmetric wall openings. For that reason, a visitor has immediately a feeling he entered into the sacred space. Le Corbusier himself was a creator of the front door decor as well as the stained glass windows.
You can join the Notre Dame du Haut Chapel from the center of Ronchamp by foot. It is a nice 15-minute walk. This magnificent concrete chapel is open all year round; from October to April, from 10 am to 5 am, and from May to October, from 9 am to 7 pm. Next to the chapel, you can find the bookshop and a café shop where you can order a quick meal. Also, if the weather is nice, you can bring your food, as there is a picnic area. The entrance ticket for adults is 8 euros, but children under 8 can enter the chapel site for free.
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