Clergy proud of people's cathedral

Paris - The first new cathedral to be built in France since the separation of church and state in 1905 welcomed the faithful to its inaugural Mass this week, writes Mary Dejevsky.

The striking red-brick building, in the otherwise faceless new town of Evry, which is half an hour's drive south of Paris, cost 67m francs (£8.9m) and has been paid for almost entirely by public donations.

From outside, the building looks like a large, squat tower. The sloping roof hastrees planted on it, intended to symbolise the Apostles and to reflect the changing seasons, but described disrespectfully by Le Monde newspaper as resembling a monk's tonsure.

The building, which is to be called the Cathedral of the Resurrection, was designed by the Swiss architect Mario Botta, and is dedicated to St Corbinian, an eighth-century hermit from nearby Chartres, who became the first bishop of Munich.

The church authorities make a point of stressing that the state has not subsidised the building in any way.

Nearly Fr35m, more than half the cost, came from 180,000 donors. The bishop said he had found it surprising that donations had been so forthcoming in an age which was so secular and when money was so scarce. He had touching stories to tell: couples getting married asked for donations to be made to the cathedral fund in lieu of wedding gifts; children sent their pocket money; and there was a Russian who sent some dollar bills in an envelope, with a note saying: "This is the first proof of our freedom, that I can send money abroad.''

The building is now fully paid for. But a further Fr10m is being solicited, to pay for stained glass for the large window behind the altar and other ornaments. At present the only ornaments are a 19th-century crucifix, an 18th-century wooden statue of the Virgin (both of which were found in Paris antique shops and, in the case of the crucifix, donated when the destination was made known) and a tapestry showing scenes from the life of St Corbinian, which has been loaned.

Speaking yesterday behind the cathedral's white marble altar, bathed in sunlight streaming through the glass roof, the Bishop of Evry, Mgr Guy Herbulot, described the euphoria and gratitude that he felt during the first Mass, which he said on Tuesday evening for 1,500 parishioners.

The cathedral, which from now on will hold regular services, including those for Easter, stands at the centre of what is intended to be a new city centre for the otherwise unremittingly charmless Evry.

The town hall is already functioning, as are the first cafes and shops and the community hall beside the cathedral. A cathedral closeremains to be built to complete the arrangement.

Looking out from the cathedral square, however, the vistas are dominated in one direction by a vast supermarket and carpark, in another by advertising hoardings concealing wasteland and in the third by a characterless concrete conglomeration already greyed with age.

It is not a promising situation but, as one of the cathedral's priests said: "Think back to the Middle Ages, when our present ageing cities were new and the great cathedrals were built as the focus of the new communities.''

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower