Hilary’s church Niort
Welcome to this church
The Christian community of Saint-Hilary’s is pleased to welcome you here. It is here, in this grand space that people meet for prayer and for the important moments of life and of history (baptisms, marriages…). But this church is also for everybody. That is why we want to be open and welcoming.
And it is Saint-Hilary too who welcomes you. This church is dedicated to him.
A new quarter, a new church !
For many centuries, there were only two parishes in Niort : Our Lady and Saint-Andrew. Because of the growth in population, two new parishes saw the light of day at the end of the XIXth : Saint-Stephen’s in the port quarter and Saint-Hilary’s in the quarter around the Brèche.
The building of Saint-Hilary’s church (1862-1866) between the road of the Trois-Coigneaux and the road to Limoges, was part of the development of the Brèche quarter with the arrival of the railway at Niort and the building of a train station (which was inaugurated 31 August 1856) and also with the building of a high school : Fontanes school (finished 18 February 1863). The architect chose was Segrétain, architect of historic buildings which at Niort are of considerable importance : the building of the Prefecture, the law courts, the prison and restoration of Saint-Andrew’s church.
The laying of the first stone took place on 18th May 1862. Mr Segrétain, died in 1864 before his work was complete and the town architect Mr Thénadey carried on the work. In 1865 the building was sufficiently advanced for the council to organise a grand national exposition dedicated to fine arts and industry, in the building from the 1st May to 7th June.
The church was finally handed over to worship on the 14th January 1866, and the consecration by Mgr Pie, the bishop of Poitiers, took place the 2nd of June 1868.
The stained glass windows were progressively installed and Louis Germain ; the niortais painter was given responsibility for the decoration.
The bell tower, which had seen its scaffolding blown away in a storm on the 28th November 1865, was finally installed in 1869. In 1914 the parish purchased a great organ.
A church as a sign
Near to the square of the Brèche, a high point of city life (restaurants, banks, traffic, parking) Saint-Hilary’s church is noticeable for its size. Everybody has to go past it in this quarter. Groups meet here to leave the city. It’s a church which is seen !¨
- At the top of the façade, the statue of Saint-Hilary welcomes the faithful and people coming just to visit or for reflection. Saint-Hilary is flanked by Saint-Ambroise, on his right and Saint-Athanase on his left, like himself, two great doctors of the church.
- Above this, inserted in the façade wall there is a medallion at the centre of which Christ is seated on the clouds of heaven holding the book of the gospels on his knees. On the open pages, Alpha and Omega remind us he is the beginning and the end of history and of all life.
He is surmounted by the four Evangelists who continue by their writing to bear living witness to him. (Matthew the young man, Mark the lion, Luke the ox, John the eagle).
- On the sides of the building, from the roof, the niches destined to receive other doctors, remain unoccupied due to lack of funds and are awaiting buyers !
- The chapel’s apses thrusting out and the belle tower with its many bell turrets, are seen to their best effect from the car park from Paul-François Proust road.
- The church has three bells named Elisabeth, Hélène and Isabelle, after their respective godmothers.
A space to breathe in !
The interior space is always impressive. There is space which allows the community to meet together and people who just want to come in and tale a breather. This space encourages freedom of spirit and dignity of people.
The church at the end of the XIXth of Byzantine inspiration has a basilica layout of three naves of equal height, with domes carried by four sided pillars and a central apse with three windows and wide and high vaults.
- The stained glass windows from the end of the XIXth reflect the piety of the faith at that time : insistence on the life of the saints, important devotion to the Virgin and to saint Joseph. "Local" saints are represented : saint Hilary, saint Abre thought to be the daughter of Hilary, saint Radegonde, and saint Martin. Few biblical scenes other than a complete window consecrated to Our Lord (right transept). The saints live in this house : it is within their communion that the prayer of the Church is celebrated. They are the friends of those who enter the church, and at the same time, models to follow and protectors. The majority of the stained grass comes from the workshop of Lobin at Tours. The windows with scenes of the Sacred Heart and saint Radegonde come from the workshop of Dagrant at Bordeaux in 1900.
- The paintings are mainly by a local artist Louis Germain (of the school of David). Two largess paintings are particularity prominent :
- The transept to the right : the resurrection of Lazar ;
- The transept to the left : the freedom of saint Pierre.
- The Organ : which was constructed by the Workshop of Debierne of Nantes about 1840 and renovated on being bought by the parish in 1914, contributes to the beauty of the liturgy (masses, marriages…) and allows the regular organisation of concerts.
In 1958 : inauguration of a new Way of the Cross in Angevine slate, etched by a local artist, Rosine Sicot. It is in homage to the cross of Christ, trophy of victory, which figures in each stations.
In 1961 : renovation of the choir, installation of the steps in Chauvigny stone and the altar in Angevin slate.
In 1968-70 : renovation of the chapel of the right transept (chapel of the Sacred Heart) transformed into the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. The installation of a modern tabernacle in copper in a diamond shape. This chapel, still being improved will be for personal prayer and small groups.
2004 : Renovation of the chapel by the architect M. Chevallereau with new furnishings by the sculptor Francis Guyot.
And the story of church building continues, so that there may be, in the centre of this quarter of the town a fine sign of the presence of God among his people and for the people, the presence of their God.
HILARY, A GREAT SAINT TO DISCOVER
It was in 350 that he became bishop of his native town of Poitiers.
Great defender of the true faith which was threatened by Aryanism, Hilary affirmed loud and clear the divinity of the Son of God "of the same nature as the father". Jesus the Son of God, true man, is also at the side of God, united by close ties which are his only. The fight to maintain the faith proclaimed at the Council of Nicée in 325, and his opposition to the Aryan emperor earned him exile in Phrygia (Turkey of today).
He strongly contributed to unity among the bishops of Gaulle by his letters and his participation in local councils. His great work is "Of the Trinity". Unfortunately the majority of his books are not yet translated into French. He died the 13th of January 368 and is buried in the basilica of Saint-Hilary the Great in Poitiers.
He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1852. they call him the "Doctor of the Gaul’s".
He is the patron of the diocese of Poitiers. His feast day is celebrated on the 13 of January. Our parish community is not a little proud to have such a patron saint, and his feast day is a great moment to recognise him. He continues to be an inspiration for the joyful proclamation of the Gospel today.
PRAY WITH SAINT HILARY
Keep the fervour of my faith whole
I pray you, keep the fervour of my faith whole and until my last breath, let me always speak of my profound conviction. Yes, that I always keep what have professed in the creed proclaimed since my new birth, when I was baptised in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit ! Allow me to adore you, you our Father, and you Son who with you is only God ; give me your Holy Spirit who proceeds from you through your Only Son.
My faith has an excellent witness : he who declares : "Father, all that is mine is yours and all that is yours is mine" (John 17, 10). This witness is my Saviour Jesus Christ, who is always God, in you, from you, with you, he who is blessed forever more ! Amen !