Puducherry 24th March 2010



Report on the state of the church Our Lady of Angels - Pondicherry

Describing the condition of the building before its restoration initiated by the Association Friends of Pondicherry Heritage in accordance with Father Michael-John Antonysamy, the parish priest.

Established by Patrick Lafourcade, consultant in charge of the building works, after five months working on the site.

The church of “Our Lady of Angels” was completed in 1855 under the direction of Louis Guerre, engineer. Its footprint on the floor is of 55 x 35 meters. It is built in strength, by means of lime and sand in the Romanesque style, with a rather simple exterior decoration including a cornice crowning all fronts, a projection molded overcoming each window (closed with color panes) and a series of pilasters with ionic capitals and bases pacing all fronts.
It includes a dome above the transept and two square, strong bell towers, symmetrical, flanking the end of the nave, where is located the main entrance. At the third level, these bell towers are decorated with 24 niches in total (3 per facade) occupied by the 12 apostles and 12 amphoras alternately. Both towers are healthy and show no harm in their close-out.

Overall impression: the church seems nearly unchanged since the date of its construction. Lack of well-run maintenance. Occasional infiltrations of rainwater.
The north wall was repaired by means of rich cement mortar, which fail to remedy the impregnation of masonry by rainwater dripping from the windows to the interior of the building. In the contrary, it extended the moist area. This defect appears to be as old as the church itself: 155 years. However it does not seriously compromise the strength of the wall.
In fact, the entire building is still healthy. There is no crack, flaw or significant weakness, except a minute circumferential crack (due to the mechanic of the materials) at the junction dome-transept, and some minor seepages at several points of the arches of the nave and transept.

Here is the list of weak points taken in account from 15.09.09 by the team of masons that I drive:

- The old lime coating of the roof (presenting two slopes) of the nave, transept and choir, after tests consisting in numerous soundings, is porous, presenting fine cracks and often taking off from its support (arch of tiles and lime mortar). Remedy: waterproof RCC slabs (thickness 6cm) armed with a steel mesh of 3 mm in parallel elements of 5 x 2.50 m joining each other by a narrow line of bitumen (5 mm);
- The rainwater vertical drains (concealed in the thickness of the walls) present several leaks at various heights. The output points are too high (about 1.50m) and must be extended down to the ground level, in order of preventing watering of the wall bases by projections;
- The perimetric wall ridge (width 1.25m) is porous. Solution: laying waterproof covering, sealed with a thin and convex RCC slab overlapping the interior side;
- Terraces of the two sacristies permeable. Significant leakage. Solution: waterproof slab + tightness sealing (approximately 1 m height) on the 4 walls surrounding the terraces;
- The interior side of the perimetric wall (above the aisles), which base is built in slope by diminishing rows of bricks ("steps"), must be flattened by mortar waterproof coating so as to have a unified slope to drain away the rainwater on the terrace without impregnating the masonry;
- 3 decayed roof windows (on the top) are to be replaced. The 16 window openings of the dome must be replaced. The frames of these windows, in good condition, will be preserved;  
- Rainwater collected from the windows of the aisles tends to permeate the thickness of the wall above which they are established. Causes (dating from the time of construction): serious defect within the window sills masonry and inversion of the openings (inside being set outside); no sloping outwards; absence of grooving and drilling of the lower part of the wooden frame to divert the remaining water;
- A general refection of the window panes must be done;
- Part of the exterior and interior plastering (mostly northern side), disintegrated by moisture, must be redone, as well as spots formerly repaired with cement mortar which, in fact, transmit moisture further in the walls;
- All the masonry works will be executed with lime and cement mortar in these proportions: lime = 4, cement = 1 + sand, so that the walls "breathe". A sample of this mortar is visible on a wall of the ground floor, southern bell tower;
- Cornices, moldings, fluting, capitals and other eroded ornaments, corroded by moisture and salt, must be repaired;
- Idem regarding the ceiling (innerside) of arches, stucco. Damages are not alarming, knowing that it must be confirmed after having built a scaffolding;
- Repainting of the entire building;
- Electrical system, outdated and dangerous, should be completely redone, with a sober yet efficient lighting - and a discreet sound equipment: building acoustics being very good (thanks to the conformation of the ceiling), it should remain within the limits of the budget ‘electricity’ figuring below;
- Rehabilitation of all passages to the 2 bell towers, including caps leading to the 2 terraces;
- Rehabilitation of the altar: among others, numerous explosions due to swelling of rust produced by the iron pieces sealed in the marble;
- Installation of a lightning rod, with earthing by drilling until a layer of wet basement;
- Setting up a 2nd drill providing fresh water to the shipyard;
- Setting up, for the works duration, a temporary electric wiring;
- Fixed and flying scaffoldings, platform with support, pulley and rope allowing materials delivery;

- Repairing of antique pieces of furniture (teak) belonging to the church. This furniture is sufficient in quantity and quality (the latter, outstanding), but is seriously damaged by the ravages of time and lack of maintenance.

Puducherry 24th March 2010

News of the Association

Progress report (25 May 2017)

Renovation of the Garden of Joan of Arc, located between the Bay of Bengale and the church of Our Lady of Angels, is moving ahead.
Although rhythm has been slowed down since 2016 due to payment difficulties linked to the rupee revolution, and to the unbearable heat of the recent weeks.
But we hope to finish the work by the end of this year.
Our Pondicherian team leader Samuel Victor is working hard, helped by our local general secretary, Aygline de Clinchamps.
Four granite meditation benches will be layed down at each corner of the pergola, as well as four lightnings.
Steel ropes have yet to be completed to hold bougainvilliae on the ceiling of the pergola.
Some plants have not survived due to the heat or the salt and have to be changed, such as some of the palm trees and bougainvilliae.
We shall also complete plantations in some other parts of the garden.
Maintenance is made by a lady gardener with the help of a petanque player, Daniel Turgot, who made himself volunteer.

 

Trip to India, 30 January – 9 February 2016

Pondicherry
Planting was carried out this week in the Joan of Arc Garden, as can be seen in the new photographs on our website. The foundations of the promenade have been laid and the pétanque pitch outlined. The lotus flowers are open around the statue of Joan of Arc, which has had its lost foot restored. Discussions have begun with the new priest of Our-Lady-of-Angels, Father Cyril Sandou, who is now responsible for the gardens, and the diocesan treasurer who visited the site described our creation as a "Garden of peace and serenity". Maintenance of the new garden will be overseen by Samuel Victor, until work is completed. The Amis du Patrimoine Pondichérien (APP) will then take over for the following six months, under the direction of gardeners from the Auroville Botanic Garden, who have supplied the plants.

The opening of the garden will be organised with the diocese once the last of the work has been completed: installation of the timber entrance gate, installation of nine granite pillars missing from the pergola, installation of steel joists between the pillars, installation of stainless-steel wires to support the bougainvillea, installation of eight lamps to light the garden and pétanque pitch.
The Fondation des Vieilles Maisons Françaises (VMF) is again supporting these final works, but other donors and sponsors nevertheless need to be found for these finishing touches.
The APP also participated in the Second Pondicherry Heritage Festival, 5–7 February 2016.

Delhi
The APP, represented by their president, joined the general assembly of French Heritage India on 8 February at the home of Mr Aman Nath, chairman of the FHI. A report was presented on the ceremony held at the Alliance Française in Calcutta on 3 February, presenting the digitalised inventory of Chandernagore's architectural heritage (project APP-Fondation VMF). In 2016–17 the FHI is working on an educational programme to introduce architectural heritage to children in schools in Pondicherry, Lucknow, Calcutta and Chandigarh, led by Mrs Aishwarya Tipnis, an architect specialising in historic buildings in Delhi.

Jardin de Jeanne d'ArcJardin de Jeanne d'ArcJardin de Jeanne d'Arc

 

Trip to Puducherry, 5 19 March 2015

As shown by the new images added at the end of the photo gallery on our website, during this trip we have been able to complete the restoration of Our-Lady-of-Angels and to begin the renovation of the Joan of Arc Garden, which is between the church and Avenue Goubert, facing the Bay of Bengal.

An initial meeting in New Delhi with the Director of the Institut Français, Mr François Vandeville, in the presence of Mr Philippe Toussaint, president of Vieilles Maisons Françaises (VMF), provided the occasion to discuss all aspects of French heritage in India. Firstly, following the collapse of the Puducherry city hall in November 2014, we alerted him to other French buildings threatened by the same fate: the light-house, the old courthouse, the school for girls, all located on the sea-front, and two other schools (including the Calvé) in the Tamil district of the town. Mr Toussaint then briefed us on his trip to Lucknow and to Chandanaggar. Lucknow: La Martinière College is being restored thanks to impetus of its headmaster, French classes have been cultivated, and contact has been made between this college and its sister college in Lyon, both founded by the Frenchman Claude Martin in the 1800s. Chandanaggar: thanks to sponsorship from the Amis du Patrimoine Pondichérien (APP) (Friends of Pondicherry Heritage) and the Vieilles Maisons Françaises (VMF), the Chandanaggar inventory is being digitised and a competition on the subject of this heritage is to be run during the next ‘Bonjour India’ festival at the beginning of 2016. The APP is also funding the booklet being prepared by the researcher Jean Deloche on old Chandernagore (pre-1760), which should help the students in their research.

A second meeting was held at Tijara Fort, the new hotel in the Neemrana chain, between Mr Aman Nath, founder of the chain, Mr Philippe Toussaint, president of the VMF, et Charles-Hubert de Brantes, president of the APP. Following the death of both Mr Francis Wacziarg and Mr Ajit Koujalgi, the three participants in this meeting, all members of FHI (French Heritage in India), updated the list of members (14) and its objectives in India, namely: to support the renovation of the Joan of Arc Garden, to participate in organising the promotion of the heritage of Puducherry, to encourage the restoration of La Martinière College in Lucknow, to complete the digitalisation of the Chandanaggar inventory, and to support the ‘Europe on the Ganges’ project.

CH de Brantes during the trip to PuducherryNew plants have been chosen from the Auroville Botanical Gardenplaque dedicated to those who donated to the restoration of Our-Lady-of-Angels

In Puducherry, a plaque dedicated to those who donated to the restoration of Our-Lady-of-Angels was inaugurated at the rear of the church. A black Cuddapah stone walkway, bordered here and there with pebbles from the river, has been made in between the church’s two forecourts, providing access above water level during the monsoon season. New plants have been chosen from the Auroville Botanical Garden and planted around the church. Two gardeners have been taken on for maintenance: watering, weeding, cleaning.

Joan of Arc Garden: the lines of the new garden have been laid out on the ground in chalk, following the plans of landscape architect Mariachiara Pozzana. The schedule of works and financing has been restructured.

CH de Brantes
President, Friends of Pondicherry Heritage/Amis du Patrimoine Pondichérien

Mission in India – 1st-15th December 2013

My stay in India comprised of two parts: one week in Pondicherry, and another in Chandernagore and Chinsurah, with a stop-over in New Delhi during both the onward and return journeys.

In Pondichery, I was welcomed by our two FPH (Friends of Pondicherry Heroitage) members, Aygline de Clinchamps and Marie de La Bellière, who're in great shape with their laundry company and numerous other activities, which includes closely monitoring our restoration work. With Samuel Victor, our project supervisor for the interior of the church of Our-Lady-of-Angels, and Fr. Michael John, the parish priest, we managed to assess and take stock of the finishing touches that remain. With Thomas Demelle, our project supervisor for the rehabilitation of the church perimeter, I was able to appreciate the work done on filling the cracks in the concrete roofing and discuss with him regarding the completion of the landscaping and planting work. For the prospective plantings, I was accompanied by Mariachiara Pozzana, architect-landscaper from Florence (Italy), who provided us with a first draft in June 2013 for the Garden of Joan of Arc, and by Jan Duclos, a botanical consultant who's been in India for many years now. We visited the best nursery in the vicinity, located in Auroville, and we chose around thirty diverse plants which will be sown for Christmas all around the church.

We had several decisive meetings concerning the Garden of Joan of Arc, located between Our-Lady-of-Angels and the Bay of Bengal. Firstly, with the Archbishop of Pondicherry, who gave his consent by confirming that no construction would be authorised in this beautiful space. This is in accordance with the wishes of its donor, François Gaudart, a French industrialist who donated this land and the statue of Joan of Arc to the church of Our-Lady-of-Angels in 1920. Afterwards, with the architect from INTACH, Ajit Koujalgi, who offered to collaborate with us. Finally, with the new French Consul in Pondicherry, Mr. Janvier-Kamiyama and the Vice Consul, Mrs. Hélène Charpin, who assured us of their support. Our architect-landscaper was able to take in the reality on the ground and the local situation, which will enable her to propose an adjusted plan for the Garden of Joan of Arc by the end of January 2014. We will then go through the bid process to choose skilled professionals. Once we have the adjusted plan and the cost estimates, we will contact again the donors in France and in India, so that the project may be carried out successfully.

At Chandernagore, I was welcomed by Rila Mukherjee, director of the Indo-French Cultural centre, who is preparing to redesign their museum and host an exhibition by Jean Deloche on the origins of the city. I did notice that the French church was now open everyday with its new parish priest Orson Wells, and that the school run by the Cluny sisters (3000 pupils) on the Strand (Quai Dupleix) is undoubtedly the most well-maintained building in the entire city. At Chinsurah, the former Dutch enclave, I met again with the Director of the Hooghly Mohsin College (1300 students), a building along the Ganges, formerly the residence (1804-1806) of the French General Perron, commander in chief of the armies of the Maratha ruler Mahadaji Scindia. I was invited to narrate the saga of his adventures in India to a class of History students and their Professor, Ms. Tista Das, intends to deal in depth with the subject of heritage protection with them. This would complete the task of the architect Aishwarya Tipnis, who has been entrusted with the inventory of all the historic buildings in the city, by the Embassy of Netherlands. The project consists of working with the Government of West Bengal to revamp the common Indo-European heritage of all the former European territories (French, Danish, Dutch, Portuguese…) on the banks of the Ganges from before the British colonial era. Our association might perhaps find material there, for a new project after the Garden of Joan of Arc in Pondicherry….

From Paris, on the 21st December 2013,
Charles H. de Brantes, President of the FPH.

 

Paris, November 29th 2013

Dear Friends,


We are pleased to announce that we've posted a new series of photographs that may be viewed by visiting our 'photo gallery' under the chapter: ‘Restoration of the church of Our-Lady-of-Angels: church surroundings’.


Subsequent to my mission in March 2013, the decision was taken to give a makeover to the garden surrounding the church. This would facilitate access to the garden and harmonise it with the building restoration work that we undertook in September 2009, and completed in March 2012.


Our previous letters have kept you well-informed regarding this, and I will definitely continue to do so as soon as I return from Pondicherry on the 15th of December.

This new mission should enable us to finish the landscaping work and to prepare for the redevelopment of the Garden of Joan of Arc, located between Our-Lady-of-Angels and the Bay of Bengal.

With warm regards,

Charles H. de Brantes
President

 

Paris, April 16th 2013

To His Excellency Dr. Antony Anandaryar
Archbishop of Pondicherry
India

Your Excellency,

It was exactly a month ago, on March 16th, that I had the chance to pay you a courtesy visit in your office in Pondicherry.

When I gave you the booklet in English about the history, the description and the renovation work on our church of Our Lady of Angels, your delighted welcome appeared to me as a “Go on with this good work !”. Work for the renovation of the joyful beauty and open spirituality contained in our “Pink church” on Beach Road.

As you gave me therefore your green light to go on now with the surroundings of the church and the renovation of the Garden of Joan of Arc, we need although another 2 years to finalize the project. As the entire renovation process has proved to be successful with father Michael John Antonysamy, it looks obvious that it has to be finalized with him in order to confirm the public success of the operation. All our organization and sponsors are based on the trust and efficiency we have developed with him only.

Another important point is also mentioned on page 3 of our booklet: ‘Our Lady of Angels is the only church in Pondicherry where mass is celebrated every Sunday in all the three languages of the city: French (twice, morning and evening), English and Tamil’. Plus a French mass every day at 6.15 am. Some real effort has to be made to keep always a three-language-speaking-priest in such a church with its important historical meaning and international location.

I am sure, Your Excellency, you will find once more in this letter the mutual trust we have developed together through the regular meetings we had in your office, since the very beginning of the renovation success story of Our Lady of Angels.

Yours faithfully, and with deep respect,


Charles H. de Brantes
President


Farewell to Anne-Marie Legay – September 2012

At the request of Charles Hubert de Brantes, its President, held up in Italy but represented here by his wife Marine, I would like to say a few words, on behalf of the Association of Friends of Pondicherry Heritage, of which I and several other members are present here.

Anne-Marie was not only our treasurer but also an elder sister and a facilitator of untiring dedication.
She was to all of us, the living memory of Pondicherry.

She had left India in 1949, at the age of 17, in the prime of her life, and returned here forty years later in 1991, in what was to be the first of several trips. I have had the privilege of organizing her trips, even her last one, in February this year.
She knew the Pondicherians, their alliances and their stories, she liked to talk about it… she was even inexhaustible on the subject.
She knew the story behind each house, each family. She would show us the house that she grew up in, and which is now occupied by the Hôtel de l’Orient. Anne-Marie would recall with pride that the church of Our Lady of Angels had been built by her ancestor, the engineer Louis Guerre, in 1855, and that her great grandfather, Léon Guerre had been, in 1880, the first elected mayor of Pondicherry.
She was obviously passionate about protecting the heritage of Pondicherry.
Despite the fatigue caused by an illness that no one suspected as yet, she continued last February on a final journey to Pondicherry, with her children and grandchildren. She was happy to have been able to transmit her love of “Pondy” to them, to have in a way, passed on the baton. It was a great delight for her to participate on the 4th of March 2012 in the blessing of the completion of restoration work at “her” church Our Lady of Angels.
She was an enthusiastic person. She was very cheerful, loved to laugh and had a great sense of humour.
She knew how to share with us, her love for India, especially for French India and when we think of Pondicherry, Anne Marie is still and will always be with us.
We share with her husband, her sons, her grandchildren and all her family, our most heartfelt thoughts and assure them that we will continue our work in the spirit that she infused in us.

Didier Sandman - (Address made on the 26th September 2012)


Mission of the FPH in India – March 2012

Two events have marked the end of restoration works at Our-Lady-of-Angels church. On the 26th February, Mr. Thierry Mariani, Minister for Transport in the French Government and the Deputy Mayor of Villeneuve-lez-Avignon (Gard) were welcomed into a church brimming with the faithful and the curious.

Monsieur Mariani is also running in the next legislative elections as a candidate of the French expats in Asia. He announced a new subsidy towards the restoration of the wall surrounding the church. A few days later, on the Sunday, 4th of March, the restored building received its official benediction from the Archbishop of Pondicherry who was accompanied by around twenty priests from the Diocese. Also present on this occasion were: Mr. Philippe Toussaint, President of the VMF Foundation (Vieilles Maisons Françaises) and Mr. Francis Wacziarg, Managing director of French Heritage in India. All the on-site workers were welcomed and congratulated. This was followed by a festive reception at the presbytery, organized by the parish council.

The restoration work on the wall surrounding the church was begun on the 20th of March. The first plans were drawn for the refurbishment of the garden of Joan of Arc.

French Heritage in India, a new association of which the FPH are members, was worried about the future of the Hôtel de Ville (Town hall) of Pondicherry. FHI awarded 4 new plaques in honor of successful restorations: the Tamil house of François Grimal, the guest house Gratitude, the Hôtel de l’Orient and Our-Lady-of-Angels church. An award for artisans is being planned for the next year. And finally, plans are being considered for the French cemetery of Pondicherry as well as for the restorations of Chandannagar and the La Martinière College in Lucknow.

Charles Brantes Charles Brantes


News from Pondicherry

Three members from the office of our association (the President, the Treasurer and the Deputy Secretary-General) will participate this Sunday, 4th of March, at the function celebrating the completion of renovation work at the church of Our-Lady-of-Angels, initiated in September 2009.

Two and a half years! Samuel Victor, the new site foreman succeeding the late lamented Patrick Lafourcade, and the artisans have doubled their efforts in a bid to finish the glass panes and the furniture on time. Completely funded by private donations that have come as much from Pondicherians (40%) as from the Friends of Pondicherry Heritage (50%) and the Foundation VMF - Vieilles Maisons Françaises (10%), this project received in December 2011 a grant from the Ministry of Culture through which restoration work was begun on the wall surrounding the church..

Two unfortunate recent events have left their mark on all the friends of Pondicherry: the death of Sister Thérèse, our life-long friend, who looked after the most beautiful residence in the town, her workroom ; and a cyclone that ravaged the trees that once made the white town, the greenest town in India.

Charles Brantes lafou

Our Lady of Angels (Notre-Dame-des-Anges). Recent Events.

Thanks to the Internet and to Skype, communication between the ‘Friends’ in Paris and the building site, has been in full flow. Especially with regard to the choice of colours, which was still subject to our Heritage Advisor - Marc Pabois. A new poster has been displayed on the collection box at the entrance of the church, appealing for aid to finance some interior finishing touches and the building’s exterior (20,000 Euros). Victor Samuel, who has taken over Patrick Lafourcade’s joinery, is taking a keen interest in the restoration work and keeps the ball rolling. The ventilators and the sound system have almost been finalised. The search for a glass manufacturer in India or France is still on, so that those glass panes that need to be changed (70% of the church windowpanes) may be replaced.

4 FPH in Pondicherry !

In fact, our ‘friends’ aren’t idle. This summer, 4 of our members are on site.
Joseph Moudiappanadin, Secretary General, is in his home town till the end of August. Aygline de Clinchamps, Deputy Secretary General, accompanied by Marie de La Bellière, another FPH, are in Pondy for at least another 6 months. Both are preparing to venture into the services sector, in addition to which, one of them is teaching as well. And finally, our new member Albert Desjardins is in his home town, ensuring a daily presence and reception at Our Lady of Angels. A meeting before the end of August, is being planned between the 4 FPH and the parish council, so that a consensus may be reached, in the presence of the contract authority – Fr. Michael John.

FHI-VMF Awards

« French Heritage in India – VMF » is an association founded in March 2011, of which the FPH are participatory members. On the March 4th at Pondicherry, two FHI-VMF awards in the form of plaques to be attached on buildings, were bestowed by this new association on two remarkable recent restorations : Le Café, Goubert Avenue, belonging to the Government of Pondicherry, and the hotel Perumal, a Tamil mansion in the Indian part of the city. Francis Wacziarg, Chairman of FHI-VMF, Philippe Toussaint, President of VMF, the Tourism Minister of the Government of Pondicherry, Dr Nallam, President of the FPH in Pondicherry and Charles Hubert de Brantes, President of the FPH in Paris and others were present.

Le Café, avenue Goubert Pondichéry Le Café, avenue Goubert Pondichéry dans les court yard


Meeting

APP et le comité paroissialThe FPH and the parish committee of Our Lady of Angels, met on the February 23rd 2011, at Pondicherry. The president of the FPH (CH de Brantes), the contract authority (Fr. Michael John) and the master builder (Patrick Lafourcade) were present. Venue : rectory of OLA. Around fifteen people. An important meeting since, despite a few tussles, it enabled the achievement of a near unanimity on most of the topics : parking, plantations around the church, etc. The great news was that the 78,500 Euros required for the restoration of the church had been found, and that donations from Pondicherry had been far more considerable than anticipated: 51 %, which translates into a local majority largely in favour of adding colour to the church. The meeting was also important because it was the last for Patrick Lafourcade and Charles de Condappa, before their accidental deaths.