At the bend in the road, its majestic silhouette stands out against the hilly landscape. Intrigued, tourists or pilgrims stop at the Notre-Dame church in Mont-devant-Sassey (Meuse), where two teenage girls welcome them with a warm hello. “If you want explanations about the monument, don’t hesitate,” says Fanny, 15, bravely, while Méline, 16, hides her nervousness at reception.
The visitors, disconcerted by their youth, decline: “We’ll just take a look…” Then one of them asks a question about the statues which adorn the 12th century porch and Fanny regains her footing: “Here, you see Adam and Eve, there, Moses, Abraham and Noah…” One thing led to another, the volunteer guide fulfilled her mission as a young ambassador of the heritage of the association Friends of the Church of Mont-devant-Sassey: to make people appreciate the architectural jewel of this village of 109 inhabitants. The “ambassadors” project was born in the summer of 2005, when Nanou Bouillet, art historian, teacher in a priority education zone and future president of the association, asked the young people of the village to help dust off the church, then in a very bad way, rather than playing at breaking the stained glass windows. “For a few snacks, they accepted,” she says. During these afternoons, the teenagers listened to me lead guided tours. Then, I heard them repeating explanations to visitors. This is how I came up with the idea of training four young people to become guides. »
A widened opening
Since then, each year, the association trains more than thirty ambassadors who, two by two, take turns. The association pays them a daily allowance of 10 euros and the young people share the tips. Thanks to their presence, the church – which only hosts a few services per year – can remain open every summer afternoon and on weekends the rest of the year. The number of annual visitors has increased from 300 to 15,000!
The diocese of Verdun appreciates that the association maintains this building, classified as a historic monument, and even notifies the architect of Bâtiments de France of any necessary work. In return, the priest of Notre-Dame let them use the sacristy as a meeting room. The town hall, owner, is also delighted with the operation which highlights a disproportionate heritage for its limited means.
The benefits are also educational and social: local teenagers find there an intelligent occupation which makes them aware of heritage and religious history. “Some had never set foot in a church! In addition, adds the president, they appreciate being given responsibility, being trusted to manage the key – even if an adult is always available to help these minors. Finally, they learn to speak in public. »
The association is in great health: 195 members, 25% of whom are aged 12 to 25… Volunteers who often remain motivated into adulthood. Thus, Kevin, one of the very first ambassadors, who became a computer scientist, helps out Les amis de l’église on their website… Lara, 21, is now in charge of training the ambassadors: “Being an ambassador since I was 13 gives me gave a lot of confidence,” explains the economics student who is going on an internship in Asia. Guillaume, also 21, took charge of organizing a costume show (read box opposite) as part of his master 2 internship in cultural expertise and mediation.