I ventured into darkest Wallonia yeteday, to find another example of the ceiling work of 17th century stucco artist Jan Christian Hansche. This was in the church of St Remigius, Saint Rémi locally, in the village of Franc-Waret near Namur. It’s the least well-known of Hansche’s 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.
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 a quarter to, and made it lear 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. It 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.