News of the Association
BLESSING AND OPENING OF JARDIN JEANNE D’ARC
SATURDAY 8th FEBRUARY 2020
Good evening and welcome in the Garden Jeanne d’Arc !
And a special thanks to Madame la Consule générale of France in Pondicherry for being present.
I would first like to thank the Archbishop of Pondicherry and Father Cyril Sandou for the constant trust they have shown, to allow us to achieve this garden project. And I point out here that, by a very unplanned manner, his blessing today happens exactly 100 years after the blessing his predecessor gave to the first Garden Jeanne d’Arc, in February 1920 !
I would also like to thank them for their patience during the five years which have been necessary to realise it.
Indeed, first we needed time to find the means… I would here like to thank Mr Lesage, well kwown embroidery specialist in Chennai, present among us tonight, Mr Suresh Bhojwani, who owns a large factory in Pondicherry, and the Fondation Vieilles Maisons Françaises (Old French Manors) whose president M. Philippe Toussaint is also here tonight.
Second, we needed also time to do the work… And I would like to praise and thank Mrs Mariachiara Pozzana, our Italian landscape architect, who designed the garden. Huge thanks to all those who worked with us. Mr Samuel Victor and Mr Joseph Arokiassamy, for the management, along with all their workers, masons, carpenters, painters, plumbers and others. Also, I would like to thank Mr Paul Blanchflower, who gave us all the plants for the garden from the Botanical Garden of Auroville, and Mr Hari Arivazhagan as well as the two lady gardeners who took care of the garden since more than 2 years. And I propose we give them all a big hand !
A word now on the garden.
We first considered three unchangeable facts. The amazing location of the garden, between the Bay of Bengal and the church of Our-Lady-of-Angels. Then, the petanque play-ground, a living heritage of the French presence in India. Finally, the statue of Jeanne d’Arc, a hero and a saint. Saint, that is why she looks towards the church and not towards the sea. Hero as a symbol of French resistance and independance. Each of the former five French settlements in India still have a statue of her. And we thought her statue would have a special meaning to our Indian friends, as she drove out the British from France as did Gandhiji from India. She was burnt at 19, he was shot at 79. We honored her with a new basin, waterlilies, mosquito eating fish, and we changed her damaged shoe, gave her back a flagpole and she even had a good wash to recover the shine of her white marble.
Our proper garden project was then based on three principles.
First, an East-West axis, to greet the first ray of the rising sun flowing straight from the eastern horizon over the sea and reaching the altar of the church. We underlined it with two parallel rows of eight palm trees.
Second, a North-South axis, showing a cross on the floor and shaping a design inspired by the char-bagh of the Indian Mogol gardens, unfolding into four, an image of the original stream in the garden of Paradise unfolding into four rivers.
Third, a square open air cloister, with a path all around. We covered it with a pergola, made of granite pillars, metal beams and steel wires, so that the bougainvilleae we planted all around would grow to create some shadow. We put pebbles on the floor to slow down the walkers and large benches at each of the four corners to invite walkers to sit and meditate.
And we completed the garden with a second well, hedges along the walls on four sides and trees all over.
A last word now on how we came to the idea of this garden.
About twenty-five years ago, a group of Indian and French partners came together, willing to contribute to preserve the Indo-French identity of Pondicherry, mostly shaped by its architecture and its city planning. We called it Friends of Pondicherry Heritage. We distributed then, between 1996 and 2002, nine Heritage awards to people who had authentically restored old French or Tamil buildings, in order to encourage the movement. We did it already supported by Vieilles Maisons Françaises and private donators. Then we initiated the restoration of Maison Colombani, with Dr Nallam, then president of our Pondicherry branch, and World Monunents Fund. Well located on the Beach Road, it became a coffee shop and a place for cultural events for its owner, the Alliance Française. From 2009 to 2012, we restored entirely the church Our-Lady-Of -Angels and its surrounding garden, with Fondation Vieilles Maisons Françaises and other Indian or French private donors. The building was close to the heart of Indo-French Pondicherian and emblematic of the French in India, as so many of them, believers or not, had visited it. Also, it was open to the world by its location on the Beach Road, along which people from all over India and from the whole world walk and have a look at the pink church. This image of openness and dialogue inspired us also to pay by the restoration of this church a special tribute to those pionneers of an indepth dialogue between India and Christianity, such as Jules Monchanin, Henri Le Saux, Bede Griffiths and Pierre Ceyrac, who all came at least once to celebrate prayers in it.
Then came the Garden Jeanne d’Arc project…
To conclude, I would say that in a context of mass tourism, obvious in Pondicherry and more so on the Beach Road, and of real estate speculation, also obvious in the city, the Garden Jeanne d’Arc could offer and remain a place of serenity for all, a place of meditation for some and a place of celebration for others. Our work is finished, we hand over the garden to father Cyril and to the parishioners… But they should know that they can always rely on us if it is somehow someday necessary!
Jardin Jeanne D’arc, history and work accomplished,
by Charles H. De Brantes, President of Friends of Pondicherry Heritage
Pondicherry Heritage Festival
8th of February 2020
In the frame of the 6th Pondicherry Heritage Festival, we have the pleasure inviting you at the opening of Garden Jeanne D’Arc in Pondicherry, on 8th of February 2020 at 7 pm.
Garden and statue of French heroine Joan of Arc, on Beach Road, were given in 1920 to the pink church Our-Lady-Of-Angels by François Gaudart, industrialist, in order to remain a church garden. Restauration of the garden was launched in 2015 by Friends of Pondicherry Heritage, sponsored by Fondation Vieilles Maisons Françaises and private donators, on a design by Mariachiara Pozzana, Italian landscape architect, with the help of many Pondicherian crafstmen and Auroville Botanical Garden plants. Due now to become a garden of peace, meditation and celebration. For a true living heritage garden.
Charles H. de Brantes
BUSINESS TRIP TO INDIA
MARCH 18 – 28 2019
Results and perspectives.
Watering the garden:
A second pump was installed (8 m deep, good quality water) under a concrete shelter, wooden door, painted as the walls of the neighbourhood.
Automatic watering would be too complex for the time being.
Metal beams were painted anew (because of the sea salt, they will have to be repainted every year or 2 years) in the same grey blue, after anti-rust (2 days work for 4 men).
Bougainvillae were trimmed to ease their growth and fixed with small ropes on the steel ropes of the pergola ceiling in order to create shade. Their feet were cleared of grass 2 feet around.
5 among them are really small, will be changed if necessary. Manure was added. Another climbing plant was brought in: cryptostegia grandiflora.
Yellow dry branches were cut off, new green ones appear on the top.
North and South walls:
Clerodendrons were planted by Paul/Adhi from the Botanical Garden in Auroville which start to hide those walls.
These are trimmed at shoulder hight.
Paul is pleased with the coming of the garden and will stop regularly.
Sticks are planted against every tree (mostly badam trees) to resist winds.
Naughty boys came to fish the fishes and have destroyed lotus flowers. We put kapiss fishes to swallow mosquitoes. Other lotus will be put in.
4 lamps were fixed on the metal beams around the basin to catch the stealers from 8 pm to 6 am. Radars will come eventually.
Father Cyril, priest of Our-Lady-of-Angels:
Has started to renovate his presbitere. Will invite Heritage architecte Raphaël Gastebois for his professionnal advices, for the presbitere and the church.
Has noted lime and ocher for the color paints of the church.
Has finished to renovate the church bells and the capucin cimetery.
Ready to organize with us the inauguration of the garden the same day as the nearby heritage Cityhall next winter 2019-20.
Raphaël Gastebois, heritage architect of Agence Française pour le Developpement:
Pondicherry Chief Secretary has recently decided that not a single heritage public building will be destroyed by now in the city.
21 heritage buildings will be restored, among them 3 public shools: Ecole Calvé, one on Mission street and the Pensionnat de Jeunes Filles on Dumas street.
He is also working on a clean water project and a better mobility project in the city.
Follow up until the garden inaugural day:
The 2 ladies gardeners will do the dayly work (6 days a week): watering, unweeding, cleaning.
Hari will do the monthly maintenance twice: timming, lawn, manure, etc.
Joan of Arc statue will get back her flag stick and her epee.
Nails will eventually be put on the walls of Goubert and Dumas streets to prevent intruders.
For the inaugural day: plate, blessing, singing, dancing, etc.
Business trip to India: Novembre 8 – 18
Meeting in Chennai with Samuel Victor, our garden supervisor. Arrival in Pondicherry.
Our garden of Joan of Arc is in a sad condition: garbage, weeds, many dead bougainvillae on the pilars of the pergola.
On the other hand, the church of Our Lady of Angels and it’s garden, renovated previously by our group, are very well maintained.
Meeting with father Cyril, priest of Our Lady of Angels, who informs me that the archbishop of Pondicherry came last August with guests to visit the Joan of Arc garden and appreciated the work.
Conference in Auroville given by Raphaël Gastebois, French architect sent by the French government to collaborate with the local authorities, about ‘Pondicherry, smart city’: the collapsed town hall, financed by the World Bank, is under reconstruction exactly how it was (but with a concrete understructure), sand beach is back along the sea shore, a renovation project is planned for the great canal.
Tribute to the dead Franco-Indian soldiers of World war 1, cocktail at the French consulate with all personalities: French ambassador, French Consul, dr Nallam father and son, Mr Deloche, Grimal, Anoussamy, …
Visit to the catholic and protestant cimeteries, both still in bad state, to the Franco-Tamil house of our laureate Antoine Mariadassou, bad state also, to the botanical garden, full of visitors and in good shape, to the INTACH where I meet Ashok Panda, and I have the good surprise to notice the renovation in progress of quite a few old French buildings in the city.
Renovation work restarts. Joseph, number 2 of Samuel Victor, arrives with two lady gardeners in saris, to whom I ask to take out weeds, clear garbage and water the plants: grass each day, plants every 2 days.
Paul, head of the botanical garden in Auroville, comes to the garden, notices the damage made by salty winds from the North-East, and gives advices.
Work stops due to a cyclone. I meet an Indian friend who recommands for the maintenance a boy called Hari who does good work.
Samuel Victor comes with me to meet Hari in his nursery along the road to Chennai. He seems fine to us by his will to work hard and by his knowledge of plants.
We both go then together to meet father Cyril in his presbiter. Good talk between them. Cyril tells us he wouldn’t have the means now to maintain Joan of Arc garden, but that he would later search for a bachelor to live in a free room he has, in order for him to look after the garden. According to him, the garden would serve the parish needs and those of the boys of his orphanage, and also by keeping the petanque players. Some of those boys already help to look after the garden around the church, beside the 3 regular employees.
Hari sends 4 gardeners to take away stones from garden, weeds and level the ground.
Meeting with Catherine Suard, French general consul of France, and with the archbishop of Pondicherry. Both advise us to postpone one year the inauguration of the garden.
Foundation work for the second water pump hut of the garden.
Decisions are taken for:
Samuel and Joseph, who keep one dayly lady gardener, who knows better now what is expected from her ; they will put lights on the statue of Joan of Arc and on the wall sea side to limit the night instrusions into the garden ;
Paul, who will come by the end of the month to replace the laking palmtree and some of the climbing plants and others ;
Hari, who will by now be in charge of the supervision of the garden.
French architect Raphaël Gastebois comes to the garden and will try to contact the Pondicherian owner (who lives in Vienna, Austria) to have him to do something of his abandoned house against the garden on the sea.
Night flight back to Paris.
CH de Brantes
President of Friends of Pondicherry Heritage
Progress report (July 1st 2018)
Friends of Pondicherry Heritage have just met for their annual assembly in Paris on June 27. They have taken good notice of the following: the 4 meditation benches have been installed and a new well has been diggen. The maintenance is done by a lady gardner (watering, unweeding, cleaning, every day) and by a gardner (clipping and mowing the lawn, once a month or so). But we still have to furnish the space around the pergola. With a lane and new flower bushes. We have received an unexpected and welcomed sponsoring from the Fundation 'Sauvegarde de l'art français', which we thank thoroughly. A business trip is planned by October in order to finalise the garden renovation and organise th opening of it by spring with the church Our Lady of Angels.
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
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.
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.
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.
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, 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
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
Paris, April 16th 2013
To His Excellency Dr. Antony Anandaryar
Archbishop of Pondicherry
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
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.
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.
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.
« 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.
The 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.