1669: Church of St Remigius, Franc-Waret

Address: Rue du Village, 5380 Franc-Waret
Co-ordinates: 50.51967, 4.97787
Distance from central Brussels: 62 km
Open: 5.30-6.15 on Sunday evenings. It is polite to attend Mass as well before starting to take photos.
Parking: on site
How to get there by public transport: Bus 816 from Namur goes past the church and stops at the end of the road.
How good is it? Only two panels survive of what must have once been a much larger work, and they are not especially impressive.
Date of my visit: 2 January 2022

The church of Saint Remigius in the small village of Franc-Waret, 12 km from Namur and 65 km from Brussels, has one of the smallest surviving collections of Hansche stuccos, with just two panels surviving from what must once have been a ceiling on the same scale as Perk. If you are lucky with your timing, you might be able to drop in on your way back from Modave on a Sunday evening, or make a special arrangement to see it at another time.

It’s the least well-known of Hansche’s surviving work – I found it not on a Belgian site but in the Netherlands Institute for Art History lists. The Wikipedia page for the church goes into great detail about the art and who paid for it, but fails to name any of the artists. It was built in the 1660s by Baron Paul-Jean de Grosbeeck, who as well as being a baron was a priest, and served as High Chancellor to the Prince-Bishop of Liege from 1646 to 1652; he is recorded as having his first ecclesiastical appointment in 1618, so must have been at least in his 70s when the church was built and the stucco ceilings installed 50 years later. He died in 1675.

I knew that the church is only open for 5pm Mass on Sundays, so got there at 4.30, to find it locked of course, with dusk falling. The priest arrived just after 4.45, and made it clear that I was welcome to come in and photograph the ceiling. A slightly older couple appeared and it became obvious that it would be churlish not to stay for Mass, since the three of us were the only congregation, so I stuck around.

As I should have anticipated, they asked me to do the readings – but my French is not really up to public speaking and I stumbled a bit over “se prosterneront” in Psalm 72:11. I was not exactly the Volunteer Organist. I don’t think I have been to any religious service in French in the last twenty years, and it will be a while before I go again.

Anyway. The point of the trip was the stucco work of Jan Christian Hansche, and there is a really fine Holy Family above the choir of the church, dated 1663, with Christ’s parents leaning out of the ceiling into our space.

Above the crossing is a representation of the Holy Trinity, which surely must also be by Hansche – it’s very baroque.

I suspect that the nave may have originally had more Hansche ceilings; unfortunately the church was “improved” in the nineteenth century, and there are three rather flat depictions of St Anne educating her daughter, the Virgin and Child and Christ triumphant which are not a patch on Hansche’s work.

The whole church is pretty ornate.

Hand on heart, I could not recommend the church of Saint Rémi at Franc-Waret to the casual tourist. But if you happen to be in the neighbourhood of Namur early on a Sunday evening, or if you are able to get it thrown in as an extra when visiting the castle next door, it’s definitely worth dropping in.

(All photographs copyright Nicholas Whyte)

Introduction: The amazing stucco ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche

(The one that might not be by Hansche in the Gent law library)

The ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche, from most to least amazing:

Leuven – Park Abbey | Modave Castle | Gent – Brouwershuis | Antwerp – Sacristy of the Church of St Charles Borromeo | Sint-Pieters-Rode – Horst Castle | Machelen – Beaulieu Castle | Gent – Canfyn House (in storage) | Wesel, Germany (Fischmarkt) (destroyed) | Kleve, Germany (destroyed) | Perk – Church of St Nicholas | Wesel, Germany (Zaudy) (destroyed) | Brussels – Church of the Sablon | Franc-Waret – Church of St Remigius | Aarschot – Schoonhoven Castle | Leuven – Priory of the Vale of St Martin (destroyed, little known)

The ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche, from earliest to latest date of creation:

1653: Antwerp – Sacristy of the Church of St Charles Borromeo | 1655: Sint-Pieters-Rode – Horst Castle | 1659: Machelen – Beaulieu Castle | 1666-72: Modave Castle | 1668-70: Perk – Church of St Nicholas | 1669: Franc-Waret – Church of St Remigius | 1670s: Leuven – Priory of the Vale of St Martin (destroyed) | 1671: Aarschot – Schoonhoven Castle | 1672: Wesel, Germany (Fischmarkt) (destroyed) | 1672/79: Leuven – Park Abbey | 1673: Gent – Canfyn House (in storage) | 1673: Gent – Brouwershuis | 1677: Kleve, Germany (destroyed) | 1677 Wesel, Germany (Zaudy) (destroyed) | 1684: Brussels – Church of the Sablon

The ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche, from most to least accessible to tourists:

Open to the public: Brussels – Church of the Sablon | Leuven – Park Abbey | Modave Castle | Perk – Church of St Nicholas | Franc-Waret – Church of St Remigius

Not normally open to the public: Antwerp – Sacristy of the Church of St Charles Borromeo | Sint-Pieters-Rode – Horst Castle | Machelen – Beaulieu Castle | Aarschot – Schoonhoven Castle | Gent – Brouwershuis

Not accessible: Gent – Canfyn House (in storage) | Wesel, Germany (Fischmarkt) (destroyed) | Wesel, Germany (Zaudy) (destroyed) | Kleve, Germany (destroyed) | Leuven – Priory of the Vale of St Martin (destroyed, little known)

The ceilings of Jan Christiaan Hansche, from west to east:

Gent – Canfyn House (in storage) | Gent – Brouwershuis | Brussels – Church of the Sablon | Machelen – Beaulieu Castle | Antwerp – Sacristy of the Church of St Charles Borromeo | Perk – Church of St Nicholas | Leuven – Priory of the Vale of St Martin (destroyed, little known) | Leuven – Park Abbey | Sint-Pieters-Rode – Horst Castle | Aarschot – Schoonhoven Castle | Franc-Waret – Church of St Remigius | Modave Castle | Kleve, Germany (destroyed) | Wesel, Germany (Fischmarkt) (destroyed) | Wesel, Germany (Zaudy) (destroyed)