The restoration of the high altar of the church of Tocqueville, with its altarpiece, its statues and its large painting The Resurrection has just been completed.
The high altar, listed as a Historic Monument on 28 June 1985, has been restored by the commune, with the help of the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles, the Conseil Départemental de la Manche, the Fondation du Patrimoine and our Association.
On Tuesday 27 April, Chantal Ducouret, mayor of Tocqueville, and Denis Onfroy, president of the Association, invited several of those involved in the restoration to the church to admire the results of the work.
Present were: Elisabeth Marie, Curator of Antiquities and Works of Art at the Departmental Council, representatives of the Fondation du Patrimoine: Jean Pierre Husson, departmental delegate and Michel Levron, new volunteer, the restorers Delphine Hue, Agnès Archimbaud and Pauline Ruiz, Father Michel Herbert, parish priest, as well as several members of the Municipal Council and of the Association.
All agreed to praise the quality of the work done, which everyone can appreciate since the church is open to visitors every day.
The work was carried out by Etienne-Jean-Philippe Aubin (1794-1863), a carpenter from Valcanville, under the direction of Bon-Charles Anthouard, also from Valcanville, and parish priest of Tocqueville from 1820 to 1839. Then, Just-Joseph Dupond, parish priest in 1839, put in place the statues of Saint Laurent (bought for 400 francs, thanks to a grant from Alexis de Tocqueville) and Saint Vincent. These statues are plaster casts, made individually in 1849-1850 by Maillard, a sculptor in Angers. The central painting, The Resurrection, by Legenvre, dates from 1847. It is a copy of a very famous painting by Brother André in 1711 and located in the church of Saint Louis de La Salpêtrière, in Paris.
The restoration took place over a year, from March 2020 to April 2021. First of all, it enabled the consolidation or replacement of several elements of joinery, the securing of the base and the fixing of the altarpiece to the wall. The radiating glory and the painting The Resurrection were removed. The glory was renovated on site. The painting was taken to the workshops of Agnès Archimbaud and Pauline Ruiz.
The 15th century stone statue of the Virgin and Child, originally located above the tabernacle, was restored in the workshop of Frédéric Rouchet in Granville, and, on its return, placed on the altar of the Rosary Chapel.
Delphine Hue, master craftsman in polychromy and gilding on wood, undertook a long work of cleaning and restoration of the paintings and gilding. Under the layer of faux marble paint, she discovered an angel’s face, suggesting a very different initial decoration from the one we knew. After consultation with the department’s Curator of Antiquities and Works of Art, it was decided to clear the Adorning Angels entirely. On 15 April 2021, with the reinstallation of the radiating glory, decorated with silver leaf, and the large painting, the high altar has regained all its brilliance and, in part, its original decoration, almost two centuries after its construction.
This operation concludes a series of works undertaken in 2017 with, among other things, the installation of new lighting and the restoration of the listed painting The Sacrifice of Abraham, which followed the major works undertaken in 2008 with, in particular, the repair of the church roof and bell tower and the restoration of the stained glass windows.
But the story does not end there. There are still problems of humidity in the walls and the ground linked to the location of the building, which is semi-buried at the foot of a hill with numerous springs. A study has been entrusted to François Pougheol, architect. He has defined the necessary drainage work on the outside and inside of the church. For the small commune of Tocqueville, this is a huge project, estimated at €200,000. The next phase consists of seeking funding, with the active support of our Association.