Massive new Church for the Society of Saint Pius X in France

A traditionalist religious community erects a monumental church

In Gavrus in Calvados, a church is being erected by the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, a Catholic community opposed to the process of modernization of the Vatican. 

An impressive church is being erected in Gavrus, a few dozen kilometers west of Caen. Behind the construction of this building modeled as an 18th century building, the Sacerdotal Fraternity of Saint Pius X, a traditionalist, even fundamentalist Catholic religious community.

Against a current. While many churches in the region are unused, even in a state of disrepair, a community is in the process of building a brand new one, in Calvados. There has been no construction of a new church in the region for nearly 60 years, this new religious building which is gradually emerging from the ground in Gavrus, south-west of Caen, looks like a UFO. It will serve as places of worship for the Sacerdotal Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX), a traditionalist and ultra-conservative Catholic community, sometimes described as fundamentalist and anti-republican.

This extremist fringe of the Catholic Church was founded in Switzerland in 1970 by Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre, in total rejection of the process of modernization of the Vatican. It is besides to this day in schism with Rome, which had excommunicated its founder. At the Society of Saint Pius X, the masses are said in Latin, the priests turned towards the altar, the followers do not communicate with other religions, are opposed to abortion, IVF and homosexual marriage. "We live our faith as our grandparents lived it, as for generations, it was transmitted until the 60s finally", explains a faithful, who did not hesitate to put his hand in his pocket to finance the erection of the future church of Gavrus.

A church is being erected in Gavrus, a few dozen kilometers west of Caen. Behind the construction of this building modeled as an 18th century building, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, a Catholic religious community steeped in tradition. 

1.6 million euros for a church financed by the faithful

1.6 million euros is the cost of this new place of worship which should come out of the ground at the end of 2024. It is entirely financed by private donations, those of members who have been contributing for almost 25 years to find a place decent to pray and gather. Because the current chapel, used since the beginning of the 80s, is falling into disrepair. Located in the heart of Caen, in the Vaugueux district, it also turns out to be too small for a community which has around 250 members in Calvados.

In 2007, the fraternity came close to acquiring the Bon Sauveur chapel in Caen, but the deal, which was financially and contractually tied up with the Eiffage Group, had inexplicably fallen through. "I offered them the church on a silver platter, but the national leaders of the Fraternity sabotaged the project. They wanted to use the money provided for something else",  Gervais Marie-Doutressoule, carried away in bitterness, close to the community then, not anymore.  (See the history)

Finally, a decade later, faced with political and religious opposition to an installation in Caen, the SSPX chose exile. Destination Gavrus, where a priory and a school for boys already exist. "A few years ago, just before his death, a faithful made a huge donation, around a third of the funding. This is what made it possible to start the work in the end", explains a parishioner. However, there are still several tens of thousands of euros to be found to repay the loans granted to complete the total budget.

37 meters long, 18 wide, 21 high, the church promises to be majestic. Inspired by the classic style of the counter-reformation (17th century), notably Notre-Dame-de-la-Gloriette in Caen, it was designed by Arnaud Paquin, heritage architect.

I had to understand everything that made up the architectural tradition of the churches that dot our territory. It's not easy because there are various harmonies to be found, in the shapes, in the acoustics, in the light. All of that comes from a balance that takes time to find.

Arnaud Paquin, heritage architect

The laying of the first stone, and its blessing, took place in February 2022. Paradoxically, few workers are busy on the site. "We were sometimes 5 or 6, but most of the time, we work in pairs", explains the site manager. "When I did the first study, many laughed saying 'these are sites that will never come out!', no one believed it, whether on orders for prefabricated elements or others... is also why we made the choice to manufacture everything ourselves. It was a bet and it is the project of a lifetime, we will not do 50 in our career".

Coincidence or miracle, when the professionals started digging, they came across a spring that had not been detected during the soil analyses. Initially problematic for laying the foundations, the presence of abundant water turned out to be a blessing later on. "Once we managed to drain the water, we thought we could use it to operate a heat pump. So at a time when energy costs churches explode, we will have a perfectly heated building while remaining economical and ecological", welcomes Arnaud Paquin, the architect.

Inauguration planned for spring 2025

There is still nearly a year and a half of work to be done, the end of the site is scheduled for the spring of 2025. Arriving in Gavrus just before the start of construction, Father Jean-Marie Lebourg does not know if he will still be in office at that time. However, in the religious, pride predominates.

In a time when there are churches that are closing, building one shows that when you have faith, you can do like our elders who built so many churches. It's also a beautiful hope, because we don't build it for us but for all those who will come after, so that souls come here to find meditation, the meaning of their life, the meaning of God.

Father Jean-Marie Lebourg, Prior of Gavrus

Baptized Notre-Dame Auxiliatrice in homage to the Blessed Virgin, the church will be open to everyone, not just to followers of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X. Even if it finds itself far from Caen, the traditionalist community is counting on its new chapel to attract new faithful.



Farmer Carolyn said…
The SSPX is Not in schism!
M. Prodigal said…
Where do you get the information that the SSPX is in schism? Do you know that they have faculties from even Pope Francis? And a valid Mass. And they are growing exponentially as more of the faithful seek refuge from a confused and disoriented "sin-nodal" of the "god of surprises".