Church Semi Souterraine Ars Sur FormansArs-sur-Formans.
©Ars-sur-Formans.|Daniel Gillet
A semi-subterranean church

Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Miséricorde

The Church of Our Lady of Mercy is often overlooked by visitors. Its superb double spiral staircase, accessed from the esplanade behind the Basilica of Saint Sixtus, leads under the street to the nave, a huge inverted ship’s hull.

An architectural feat

This bold project was designed by architects Pierre Pinsard (construction of the underground basilica at Lourdes) and Hugo Volimar. Modesty and respect for the landscape are two characteristics to be respected. Work on the church began in 1959, to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of the Saint Curé, and was completed in 1961. Built in the shape of a vessel below the village of Ars, it took over 64,000 man-hours to complete.

55 meters long and 25 meters wide, the volume of this imposing monument is striking in its extreme simplicity, with the only decoration being powerful concrete beams left unfinished.


Simplicity that gives way to utility

Designated a “Monument du XXIème siècle”, the church has been stripped of all decoration: a triptych, a Stations of the Cross, a statue of the Holy Curé, the papal chair specially made for Pope John Paul II when he visited in 1986 by M. Sandron, a carpenter from Ars, and the liturgical glass furnishings by Jean-Louis Ferraton, a master glassmaker from Lyon. Its size makes it an ideal venue for large gatherings and celebrations such as ordinations, 11 a.m. masses every Sunday morning and the August 4th pilgrimage.

After your visit, take a moment to relax and recharge your batteries in the huge meadow in front of the church. Even better: sit down on a bench and enjoy a snack. Between the bakery and its famous sacristains, the praline tarts and the delicious ice creams from the ice cream parlour, you’ll be spoilt for choice!