in the Lorraine mining basin
In the main square in a village in the mining basin of the Lorraine region, in the north of the French department of Meurthe-et-Moselle, neighbouring the Duchy of Luxemburg - the town is 33 km away -, and hardly any further from Belgium and Germany. The city of Metz is 50 km away via the motorway, and the nearby A4 puts Paris approx. 325 km away. Metz-Ville train station with its many TGV trains per day has 90 minute links with the French capital. International links are provided via Luxemburg International Airport, just 37 km away.
Metz is a flagship town for the north of the Lorraine region. An economic centre and a university town, its cultural activities have been greatly enhanced by the opening of Metz Pompidou Centre, specialising in works from the 20th and 21st centuries, which draws large numbers of visitors from the region as well as the neighbouring countries. The predominantly preserved, historic centre of the city of Metz also reinforces this ever-growing vocation.
Confronted with stagnation in 1937 as a result of the economic slump, the company Wendel-de-Hayange, owner of the Crusnes iron mining company, sought new openings for its rolled steel production. The French colonial empire offered great prospects. The company therefore developed the concept of a prefabricated church made completely of iron, the components of which were all to be rolled and prepared in the factory, sent to the site and put together a little like a Meccano set with the help of local, unskilled labour, enabling missionaries to create new places of worship on the African continent quickly and easily.
With the aim of validating said concept, the mining town of Crusnes was chosen as a show site for assembling the first prototype of such an edifice.
The craftsmen for this construction were Claude Robbe and Alphonse Fenaux, architects for the De-Wendel company, associated for said creation with the Jura company Fillod, directed by Fernand Fillod.
Fernand Fillod had developed and patented in 1928 the “steel section” system which simply constituted two sheets of metal connected by struts, the space created between them being filled with insulation. This system of prefabricating in the factory was to industrialise the construction process for numerous buildings: houses, schools , hospitals, workers’ housing estates, etc.
Fernand Fillod’s procedure is part of the history of French architecture, together with that of Jean Prouvé, who set himself similar objectives with his aluminium houses.
It was for this reason that the Sainte-Barbe Church was erected between 1937 and 1939 in Crusnes. However, the Second World War broke out just after the works were completed and consequently this religious edifice was to remain not only unique in the world but also a symbol of the Lorraine steel basin.
Classified as a French Historic Monument in 1990, the church, dedicated to the patron saint of the miners, was subject in 1997 to a full programme of major restoration work: thermo-lacquering of all the sheet metal, replacement of the external metal sheets with new ones and replacement, as insulation, of the original blast furnace slag with rock wool. And lastly, the church was repainted a superb light grey which stands clearly out against the horizon.
Rarely has the term “unique” seemed more appropriate to describe a building. The Sainte Barbe iron church in Crusnes is highly remarkable because of the materials used, the place that it occupies in the industrial estate and that of architecture, its distinctive Art-Deco style and its deep-rootedness in the social and human context of the entire region.
Its vast floor surface area, some 500 m², hints at a huge range of conversion and use possibilities: an exhibition centre, a concert hall, an artist’s studio, a media library or a cultural centre could breathe new life into a place which is still filled with a peaceful, inspiring light.
The edifice stands clearly out against the horizon, making the immediate statement that it is anything but anonymous or commonplace.
For this reason and for the very strong attachment that it has created throughout the region, this church requires the ambition of a strong, enthusiastic soul who will be able to take full advantage of its potential.
|Land registry surface area||2500 m2|
|Main building surface area||500 m2|
|Number of bedrooms||1|
Gilles Larosée +33 1 42 84 80 85
NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.