Listed as a Historical Monument, this 12th and 13th century church has a flamboyant Gothic-style facade and a Roman-style bell tower.
Its location, far away from the centre, is very unique. Legend has it that during the 9th or 10th century, during the Norman invasions (Vikings), a priest hid a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary breast-feeding her baby in a hollow tree trunk in order to protect it from the pillaging. Two centuries later, a shepherdess found the statue in the tree trunk and the town decided to build a church there.
The church was named after this legend, "Notre-Dame de la Tronchaye" (Our Lady of the Trunk).
The term "Tronchaye" came from the word "tronc" (trunk) in French.
Outside: this beautiful building is made of granite and schist, with its square tower standing near the only two city gates that have been preserved (Porte Cadre and Porte de l’Etang). It has seen many changes over time:
- The northern facade was completely reconstructed using a flamboyant Gothic style in 1533.
- A cross, offered by Claude, Duke of Guise, in the early 16th century, is also erected in the middle of the graveyard.
- During the 17th century, the central aisle was equipped with an additional nave to the south.
- More work was down in the 19th century, however, it wasn't until 1924 that the inside of the church started to look the way it does today.
Inside: Upon entering, you will notice that the columns are tilting. This is because the church was built without a foundation on rock: schist. Without a foundation, the church started move with the soil, sliding towards the south! To stop the church of moving, the south aisle was built. This structure is used as a buttress. Following this construction, the church stopped sliding, but started to shift towards the west! Again, it was necessary to add a buttress on the west side of the building. The building continued to shift and many changes were gradually made throughout the centuries, incorporating different types of architectural styles. The church is a mix of Roman (bell tower), Gothic (north façade) and Renaissance style architecture. To the right of the choir, there is a beautiful stained-glass window, requested in 1927 from a glass-maker of Angers: Mr Roger Desjardin. This stained-glass window tells the story of the shepherdess finding the statue in the hollow tree trunk.
Open all year around from 10 am to 6pm.