THE PROTESTANT CHURCH IN LA ROCHELLE
(Reformed Church of France)
This church is the former church of the Récollets (a catholic monastic order), built in the 17th century, on the site of St˗Michael’s hall.
The hall took its name from a brotherhood which held its meetings there; the hall became the property of the parish when the brotherhood was dissolved by King Charles IX. From that time onward it was used for official receptions given by the city to honor people of rank, as well as for banquets or public meetings. The first protestant services were held in 1561 when the Simultaneum (an alternative protestant and catholic service in the same church) was rescinded by the King and in 1563 the Protestants were allowed to use it regularly, although it remained a parish hall.
After the siege of 1628 it was handed over by King Louis XIII to the Jesuits who gave it up to the Récollets, a Franciscan order. The monks used it as their own chapel until 1691 when they started building a new church. In 1705 a fire destroyed part of the convent and the whole choir in the new building which again suffered another fire in the following year, the front of the building remained intact.
At the time of the French revolution the church was secularized. The monks had to abandon their convent and their property was auctioned. François˗Elie Chamois Esq., a grain and fowl merchant, bought the house, the church and all the outbuildings, except the garden and the sick ward (June 17, 1791). Two years later, in March 1793, he sold the church back to the heads of the protestant families who had been deprived of a place of worship since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes; they opened a subscription for the purpose. Indeed the services were resumed only in 1798.
Inside, the building ˗ 40m. long, 19,50 m wide and 12 m. high ˗ underwent some alterations during the 19th Century: walling up of the arches which formed five chapels on the southern side, installation of pews and of a new pulpit, wainscoting of the walls in Doric style, up to 5,50 high, stained-glass windows, setting up of an organ. The present instrument, built by Mercklin, was installed in 1897.
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