The history of the church

The Tocqueville village and its church at the 19th century

Excerpted mostly from Louis Drouet’s book “Recherches historiques sur les vingt communes du canton de St Pierre Eglise ” 1893.

Tocqueville once had two main fiefdoms: the Tocqueville fiefdom, proper, and the Auville fiefdom. In the 12th century, Raoul and Richard, owners of the Auville fiefdom, were founding patrons of St Laurent’s Church in Tocqueville, which they gave to Montebourg Abbey with tithes and affiliations. This donation was made by the consent of their overlord lords, Richard de Vernon and Robert de Hainou, and was confirmed by Henry II, Duke of Normandy (1174-1189).

It was in the first half of the 13th century that the present-day church of Tocqueville was probably built. The old portal, relocated at the end of the 19th  century on the north side, the three window with lancets of the head, visible in the sacristy, are of the ogival style of the first period.

The openings of the naves and the choir were later redone and modified. The building consists of a nave flanked to the north of a aisle. The warhead arches are supported by cylindrical pillars, roughly worked. To the south is a bell tower, originally “à bâtière”, which was transformed at the end of the 19th century.

A large chapel, the Rosary Chapel, opens onto the choir and extends the north aisle. It was built during the 14th century. The windows and ribs of the vault are indeed of that period. The de Hennot, lords of Tocqueville at that time, had no sitting and burial rights in the choir, reserved for the holders of the Auville fiefdom. It is natural that they had this great chapel raised to bury their deceased and sit on their own bench. There are still several tombstones.

From 1585 the parish priest of Tocqueville Olivier Frimot began to keep records of catholicity.

In 1665, the roof required a very important repair. Slate from Le Vast was used. The roofing workers were paid 10 pennies a day with a jar of cider and the servers 7 pennies.

In June 1696, Michel Gardin became parish priest of Tocqueville. Under his administration, the frame and cover of the tower were redone. The rooster that overcame the cross cost 8 pounds 2 pennies. The window of the altar of the Virgin Mary was walled. Above the altar, Lemasurier, a carpenter, built a countertable for 100 pounds.

The church was repaved in Yvetot stone. The cobblestones of the chapels of the Rosary and Saints Cosme and Damien were straightened and repaired. The altar of Saints Cosme and Damien occupied the site of the North Gate. The frame on the large side of the church was raised in 1703.

From 1707 to 1714 work continued in the church. A new door was put to the portal. Pierre Vigot and Robert Latire built a pulpit and two confessionals and extended the perch of the crucifix, suggesting that the arch of the entrance to the choir was widened.

Charles François Laisney de Longpré became parish priest in 1732. He re-ringered the bell tower. The two existing bells were melted. A third was added. Sieur Lenoir, for his work and supply of 855 pounds of metal at 28 pennies per pound, received 1,299 pounds. Georges-Charles Clérel, lord and patron of Tocqueville, gave 51 pounds, the parishioners 24 pounds. The priest paid for part of the frame. The rest was completed by the treasure of the church. The former presbytery, located on the heights of Tocqueville, which will be sold at the Revolution, is attributed to Mr. Laisné.

Louis Dudouy was appointed parish priest in 1776. The church’s panelling was paid 800 pounds in 1777. The following year Lacolley, a painter, received 1,083 pounds for painting and gilding the great altar. That is to say the richness of this piece of architecture. The patriots, in carrying out an inventory of the furniture of the church, noticed : “A high altar and a countertable of a very beautiful spectacle, loaded with gilding”.

During the revolution, Louis Dudouy and his vicar Jean François Michel Le Charpentier were ordered to take the oath, requested by the civil constitution of the clergy. The oath was taken in terms that rendered it null and void. The two priests went into exile.

The goods of the cure were sold at a low price, the church robbed of its silverware, the copper utensils, which were not essentially brought to the district of Cherbourg. The furniture of the church, the crosses of the crossroads and the cemetery, which were auctioned, produced 400 pounds. The three bells were lowered and sent to Cherbourg to make cannons, when it was possible to keep one. At that time, the elected persons, who made up the municipality, were, following dubious denunciations, relieved of this function by a representative of the people who came expressly from Cherbourg, and replaced. Four residents, including a lady, were taken to a prison. This new, unelected municipality realized a little bit late that a bell would have been very useful to gather the citizens of the commune for the ten-day celebrations. In this troubled climate, a bell was “borrowed” from the church of Ste Genevieve : this commune was then included in the canton of Saint Pierre Eglise. This bell is still there! It bears the following inscriptions:

“In the year 1777, I was blessed by Mtre Michel François Pontus, parish priest of this place and appointed Michèle, Jacqueline by the so-called parish priest and lady Jacqueline Suzanne Elisabeth Le Maillant, wife of Mtre André Langlois, councillor of the Roy, Viscount of Barfleur”

With the restoration of Catholic worship, Jean François Michel Le Charpentier, former vicar of the parish since 1778, was recalled in 1803 as priest of Tocqueville. The church had not been sold but completely devastated in 1793. The City Council made a commitment to provide the essentials for the celebration of worship.

In 1812, Pierre Lozouet obtained the cure of Tocqueville. The parish priest was staying near the church in a rented house. The Count of Tocqueville (Alexis’ father), prefect of the Moselle, offered this house to the commune to serve as a presbytery in perpetuity. The donation was accepted on May 15, 1818.

Bon-Charles Anthouard, from Valcanville, became parish priest in 1820. The following year, the Municipal Council raised the rectory, which had only the ground floor, by one floor. Jean Philippe Aubin, carpenter from Valcanville, under the direction of the parish priest, raised the high altar and a altarpiece with two columns, its ion capital, two false console niches, the summoned of two large volutes and a radiant glory. It’s the one that’s still visible today.

Just-Joseph Dupond, parish priest of Tocqueville in 1839, set up the statues of Saint Laurent (bought 400F thanks to a grant from Alexis de Tocqueville) and Saint Vincent. He capped the choir and the nave. The great central painting, The Resurrection, by Legenvre dates from 1847.

François Brisset was parish priest from 1876 to 1884. He had a stained glass window filling the northern window of the Rosary chapel, with a stained glass window that looked like painted by an Epinal imagier (the two current stained-glass windows: meeting of Mary and Elisabeth, date from the 1950’s). He had a stone altar raised under the name of the Sacred Heart in the chapel under the bell tower, and the windows of the north side of the nave reworked.

In 1884, Bernard Gouelle got the cure of Tocqueville. At the entrance to the choir, Donglas carved a small altar in honour of Saint Joseph, now gone. The rosary chapel is restored and the oriental window decorated with a stained glass window due to the generosity of Mrs. Onfroy, born Rouxel. The tombstone of Alexis de Tocqueville’s first burial is said to have been used to make the altar. Niches are practiced in the wall to receive statues. An enamelled paving is placed in the choir. Oak stalls are built. The two windows of the northern sanctuary are replaced by a larger ogival style. On this occasion, Ms. Hay and Ms. Auvray offer a magnificent stained glass depicting Christ blessing children, portraits of the children of donors. On either side of this window are the statues of St. James and St. Catherine, who had their altars in the church before the Revolution. Most of this work was carried out at Father Gouelle’s expense.

In 1895, after ten years of discussions about the need to consolidate the bell tower that was in danger of collapsing and whose roof had been damaged by a storm, major transformations of the church were undertaken. The 13th century western gate is transferred to the north and replaced by a Yvetot limestone gate. The gable receives a statue of the Sacred Heart at the top. To make it hanging at the north side, a aisle is built to the south in the same style. Thus the nave is well lit, by similar windows with stained glass windows representing the 12 apostles, dating from 1902. The nave has been vaulted, replacing the panelling. The bell tower is heithtened and two windows with lancets attached have been opened on each side. It is topped by a steeple, now gone.

During the 20th  century, interior design work took place, in particular, the construction of a vault in the choir (similar to that of the nave), electric lighting, the replacement of benches with chairs, electric heating on the floor, the electrification of the bell (always the one from Ste Genevieve). Several stained glass windows were donated by parishioners.

A 17th century painting, The Sacrifice of Abraham, (classified as historical monument) has been recently restored, and is located in the Rosary Chapel. On the altar of this chapel is now placed a pretty stone statue representing the Virgin with the Child, dating from the 15th century; it was originally placed above the tabernacle of the high altar.

In the chapel of the Sacred Heart, there is a magnificent oak lectern, as well as a small 15th century stone statue of St Martha crushing Tarasque.

Also noteworthy are the baptismal funds from the 18th century.

On the south wall of the choir, a plaque commemorates several members of the Clérel de Tocqueville family, buried in the church. Other plaques bear the names of the Tocqueville veterans of the 14-18 war inscribed as they disappeared, those of the “Dead for France” being engraved on the Memorial in the cemetery.