Dear friends, members and well-wishers of Pondicherry heritage,

Founded in 1995, the association Friends of Pondicherry Heritage (FPH) is currently working on its biggest project : the restoration of the church Notre-Dame-des-Anges (Our Lady of Angels).

Initiated in September 2009, the restoration work proceeded without any major obstacles till March 2011. Collecting the required 78,500 euros and reaching a near-consensus on the choice of interior colours of a building that had remained white (turned grey with time) since its construction in 1855… was not so obvious. But contract authority (Father Michael John), master builder (Patrick Lafourcade), the parish council and the FPH… have listened to each other in order to overcome the hurdles and carry forward the enterprise.
5th March 2011 : the master builder Patrick Lafourcade is killed in a motorcycle accident.

A week later, the treasurer of the parish council Charles de Condappa dies of a heart attack. It was a huge shock for the crew. But a month later, the work site had picked up speed again.

Unanimously it was acknowledged that the two figures lost to us, had left behind working instructions and accounting documents of such quality that the work did not suffer much due to their departure, their spirit continues to imbue all those who pursue the project today. The work site will henceforth be managed by Patrick Lafourcade’s right hand - Munusamy, P. Lafourcade’s joinery enterprise has been taken over by Mr. Samuel Victor, who is also taking a keen interest in all the on-going work. The accounts of the parish council have been taken over by Mr. Albert Desjardins.

The painting of the church should be over by the end of August 2011, and the finishing touches in the interior (furniture, ventilators, sound system etc.) should follow in September.
On the cards for next year is the restoration of the wall surrounding the church and the working out of a plan to give a face-lift to the garden of Joan of Arc, located between the church and the sea.

Another important event of this spring has been the founding of “French Heritage in India – VMF” (FHI-VMF), a new branch of VMF-World (like VMF-Senegal, etc.).

VMF or Vieilles Maisons Françaises (Old French Mansions) is an organisation that works towards the preservation of French architectural heritage. Through VMF-World, the VMF Foundation (created in 2009 to complement the work of the VMF, an association with nearly 20,000 members) has decided to organise the carrying out of inventories of heritage of French inspiration, situated abroad. This includes sites or localities :
- constructed or renovated by a French architect or city planner - constructed by a local architect trained by a French institution or architect- in which part of the interior decoration has been done by a French artisan.

The heritage is taken in its widest sense (residences, parks and gardens, religious sites, cemeteries…) and incorporates the heritage of the twentieth century.

Quite naturally, the FPH count among the founding members of this globally operating association :
Francis Wacziarg (chairman), Ashok Panda, Ajit Koujaldi, Aman Nath, Chiranjiv Singh, Sukhjit Singh, Raja Syed Muzzafar Ali, Nandita Pal Choudary, Rahul Mehrotra, Félicie Berry, Charles Hubert de Brantes, Philippe Toussaint.
The first project of FHI-VMF will be the inventory of Chandannagar.

Thanking you for your attention and kind support,
Warm regards,
Charles-Hubert de Brantes, president of FPH.

17th July 2010



letter to the members

Dear friends of Pondicherry Heritage,

We are glad to send you some latest news about our association since its general assembly on April the 14th.

The updating of our website HYPERLINK "http://www.lesamisdupatrimoinepondicherien.org" www.lesamisdupatrimoinepondicherien.org (have a look at the pictures of our work-sites) and the "facebook" opened in the name of the association allowed the widening of our audience in a significant way.

Moreover, we encourage you to consult them and to transmit us any pertinent fact that we could publish.

Our first thought goes towards the 60 generous contributors who allowed our association to launch the beginning of the restoration of the church “Our Lady of Angels” (Notre Dame des Anges) last September. Each of them became partner of this work-site supervised on the spot by Father Michael John Antonysamy, parish priest and work master, and Patrick Lafourcade, master builder, who lives and works in Pondicherry since nearly twenty years.

The second steeple of the church is on the way to be repainted in the same Neapolitan rose that characterizes this building. A nourished exchange of authorized opinions (your office, our counsel in heritage Marc Pabois, Father Michael John and his parish counsel, Patrick Lafourcade himself, the INTACH, the embroiderer Jean-François Lesage, etc.) resulted in a consensus to give color, and therefore presence, to the 12 apostles (earth of sienne, pale blue and flesh color) and to the vases (of a darker rose), situated half way up of the steeples and since now drowned in the same exterior color of the building.

Otherwise, the revision of exterior bricklaying is on the way of being finished. The benches of the church are all practically restored (joinery and canning). The revision of the windows is finished (There are still some color tiles to repair). Father Michael John asked an Indian craftswoman to restore the pictures of the way of cross.

The work is concentrated currently on the internal paint of the dome, the general revision of the electricity, the works of water-tightness of the roofing and the internal paint of the church.

If the first campaign of fundraising in June and July 2009 brought around 30000€, the second one in January 2010 brought around 8000 €, of which 4000 € were a donation from the Foundation of the Old French Manors (Fondation des Vieilles Maisons Françaises). Contributors from Pondicherry were also very generous with nearly 10000 € collected in the latter weeks. The restoration works are therefore able to continue even if we still need to collect 30000 € for their completion ! Here again, we count on your initiatives to balance the budget: gifts, patronage, diners, concerts, etc …

As for our other projects, here are the latest news:

The Home of the Soldier (Le Foyer du Soldat)
: Thanks to the committee of restoration and of its president Mr. Balaramin Bichat, who is also a member of our association, to the action of the General Consul of France at Pondicherry, Mr. Pierre Fournier, and of our collaboration at some of the phases (financing, technical counsel with Mr. Philippe Toussaint, president of the Old French Manors), the Home of the Soldier (Le Foyer du Soldat), completely renovated, should reopen its doors in the spring of 2011.

Christian cemetery: the work resumed, by some of our members, in collaboration with the new accountant of the general Consulate of France in Pondicherry, Mr. Jehan de Lemos, should bear fruit in the months to come.

VMF-India (Vmf-Inde): In the framework of the world-wide extension of the Old French Manors (French heritage situated outside France: Viet-Nam, Lebanon, Senegal, Egypt, etc.), the commission VMF-World (VMF-Monde) met on June the 22nd at the seat of the VMF in Paris (93 University street, Paris 75007). Our delegate in India, Francis Wacziarg must structure more his delegation and start his first missions: a pre stocktaking of Chandernagor, a twinning between the high schools of La Martinière-Lyon and La Martinière-Lucknow, and the awarding of "VMF-French Heritage" badges to restorations of quality.

Twinning La Rochelle – Pondicherry: an important delegation of Pondicherry (its governor, its mayor, the INTACH, etc …) recently was invited to La Rochelle to have a deep look at the works of restoration of the old heritage of this beautiful harbor city. Our association greeted this initiative with the city hall of La Rochelle.

Mr. Joseph Moudiapanadin, your general secretary, Miss Aygline de Clinchamps and Mr. Albert Desjardins, new members of the APP, will be in Pondicherry in July /August and will be able to make our work-sites progress profitably.

To all, we wish a good summer of rest and of vacation, or for some others… of work, again and always!

Cordially,

Charles-Hubert of Brantes, Joseph Moudiappanadin, Anne-Marie Legay,
president, secretary general, treasurer.

Pondicherry 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

Information of the Association for the preservation of Pondicherry and French heritage in India

LETTER TO THE MEMBERS

21/03/ 2012


Dear friends,

After having given away, since our founding in 1995, Heritage Awards to eight excellent restorations in Pondicherry, and then in 2004 having initiated and participated in the renovation of the Alliance Française on the Bay of Bengal (also called the Maison Colombani), the Friends of Pondicherry Heritage chose in 2009 to restore the church Our-Lady-of-Angels.

Three main motives inspired this choice.

The first reason is spatial. Each morning, the church Our-Lady-of-Angels witnesses a remarkable phenomenon. From beyond the sea skyline, heading straight from Burma, the first ray of the sun reaches out and touches the statue of Joan of Arc before entering the great door and threading its way to the altar where the first mass of the day is celebrated. A correspondence that we found striking.

The second reason is historic. The presence of the church Our-Lady-of-Angels goes all the way back to the arrival of the French in Pondicherry, even if the current church built between 1851 and 1855 by the engineer Louis Guerre, an ancestor of the treasurer of our association, is only the fourth building to share the same name. In fact, two Capuchin monks accompanied François Martin in 1674 when he took office as the first Governor of Pondicherry. The Capuchins of course, belong to the Franciscan order, whence the name “Our-Lady-of-Angels”, in tribute to the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels at Assisi, where Saint Francis restored his first chapel and founded his first community.

The third reason is more humane and spiritual. If most of the French in India, in the course of three centuries of their presence in the sub-continent, landed in Pondicherry and thus either passed in front of or entered this church, then its restoration is also the occasion to commemorate three great witnesses of the dialogue between Hinduism and Christianity: Jules Monchanin, Henri Le Saux and Bede Griffiths… who also passed through this church.

In full concurrence with the new parish priest, Fr. Michael John Antonysamy who arrived in 2008, the work was begun in September 2009. We had by then, assembled the first donors and chosen Patrick Lafourcade as the site foreman. The church till then had undergone some minor maintenance work, but never the complete restoration that was overdue.

The structural work began with the waterproofing of the roof and walls. Then, the 22 windows of the nave and the 8 dome windows were either restored or replaced. Shortly after, the sound, lighting, electrical and ventilation systems were refurbished. Finally, the wooden furniture, unique to Pondicherry, was completely restored, along with the window panes and some of the flagstones. Then came the paint…

Left entirely in white since its construction, the church’s exterior alone had been repainted with Neapolitan pink and cream-yellow at the beginning of the twentieth century. The white in the interior had meanwhile turned grey with time. Encouraged by India’s appetite for colors and by our site foreman, we prepared to add color to the church! Decisions were only taken after gradual discussions between those involved and after consulting the experts, and were at no point imposed from above. For the exterior, Neapolitan pink and yellow were retained but two colors were chosen for the 12 apostles: brown for the cloaks and sky blue for the shirts. For the interior, the three existing colors of the windowpanes guided our choice: blue - celestial and Marian, in three different shades; yellow - solar and luminous; and red - enhanced with clear beige and pink, in a tip of the hat to India. As for the stations of the cross, entirely in papier mâché, the colors that breathed life into it came from the audacious brush of a woman artist from Pondicherry. Meanwhile, the three entrance doors changed color from reddish brown to navy blue.

The restoration work was completed before the 4th of March this year, when the archbishop of Pondicherry held a benediction ceremony. The two and a half year construction work was jolted by two ordeals. First, the brutal death of Patrick Lafourcade on the 4th of March 2011, followed quickly by that of Charles de Candappa, the parish treasurer, laying a wreath on the coffin of the former. Secondly, the cyclone Thane that devastated the region of Pondicherry on the 30th of December 2011, uprooting trees and smashing in the doors of the church. But spirits at the work site continued to be high and all the teams of workers were committed to finish their work under the supervision of the new site foreman : Samuel Victor, a friend of Patrick Lafourcade.

Today, work has resumed on the restoration of the wall surrounding the church and preparations are on for the refurbishment of the garden of Joan of Arc.

And the Our-Lady-of-Angels church has once again become a place of silence, of liturgies and a place that is open to the outside world, through the use of three languages: Tamil, French and English and through the presence of a replica of our Lady of Velankanni, worshipped in equal part by Christians, Hindus and Muslims.

Finally, our heart goes out, filled with gratitude, towards all the donors, known and unknown, in France and in Pondicherry, whose generosity made this restoration possible, not to mention the VMF Foundation and the French Government who have allocated grants to us.

Best regards,
Charles H. de Brantes, President of the FPH.