It is an ordinary-looking wooden door that visitors to the cloister of the Mortagne-au-Perche hospital (Orne) pass by without noticing it. And it’s a shame because, behind it, a 16th century jewel is revealed: the nave of the Saint-François chapel. Built from 1505, this centerpiece of a convent of Poor Clare sisters has housed exceptional polychrome decor since the 19th century.
But over the years, everything has deteriorated due to water infiltration. In 2019, a resident of the town, Vincent Lebel, founded the Mortagne-au-Perche heritage association with Bruno de Coupigny. Quickly, the team decides to rescue the chapel. “Our first challenge was to highlight this place which was little-known,” says Vincent Lebel who, with other enthusiasts, is working to find funds to finance the work on the framework, the bell tower and the decorations. The cost of the project is estimated at 2.3 million euros.
Without waiting to launch the first phase, in 2024 at the earliest, the association has chosen to have two paintings from the 17th century restored. Representing the flight into Egypt and the Holy Family, they adorn the gallery of the chapel. It is this project in particular that Pilgrim and the CFRT have decided to take precedence with the Pilgrim Media Prize. In September, the building was selected as part of the heritage lottery. Now no one can ignore the treasure hidden behind this little wooden door.