Bruno Decaris Strikes Again : the Couvent des Pénitents in Louviers


1. The music school in Louviers
built on the ruins of the Couvent des Pénitents
seen from the back
(architect : Bruno Decaris)
Photo : Didier Rykner

10/4/14 - Heritage - Louviers, Couvent des Pénitents - Among the chief architects for historical monuments whom we would like to see change professions, for the sake of the buildings they are entrusted with, there is one we have never mentioned, Bruno Decaris. He gained his notoriety for the way he treated the château de Falaise, a scandal which made the headlines in the 1990’s. In Telérama, Decaris stated : "My work consists in revealing monuments, putting them in the limelight, giving them a meaning. Not restoring them ! I don’t like the term of ’restoration’. It smells of rancid nostalgia, Ancien Régime [pre-Revolutionary France], the idea that ’the past was better’...". It seems incredible to think that someone who so clearly asserts that his work does not consist in "restoring" monuments is still employed for the... "restoration" of historical monuments which the State is supposed to, by law, maintain. Bruno Decaris thus happily continues to practice his profession, which is therefore not that of a "restorer" as he himself readily admits, in a certain number of French départements, including the Eure.


2. The music school in Louviers
built on the ruins of the Couvent des Pénitents
(architect : Bruno Decaris)
Photo : Didier Rykner

3. Old postcard showing the ruins of the Couvent
des Pénitents in Louviers
with its cloister on the water


We will soon devote an article to the church of Louviers. However, our visit to the city provided us with the chance to judge this architect’s intervention on an important monument, though now mainly in ruins : the remains of the Couvent des Pénitents. We should remember that, like in Evreux, Louviers was for the most part destroyed by the bombing during WWII when it lost many of its historical monuments.


4. The music school in Louviers
built on the ruins of the Couvent des Pénitents
(architect : Bruno Decaris)
Photo : Didier Rykner

5. Old postcard showing the ruins of the Couvent
des Pénitents in Louviers
with its cloister on the water


Apparently, those events were not enough for the last mayoral team, which very fortunately lost the municipal elections about a month ago : the Romantic ruins surrounding one of the rare cloisters located on a body of water still standing in Europe were replaced by a hybrid monster, one half of which consists of an overly restored old building, the other half a contemporary structure redolent of a modern architectural statement. The fact that the latter is not totally unacceptable in no way justifies its place within a historical monument. We might apply here Emperor Charles V’s words in speaking of the cathedral in Córdoba built on the mosque : "You destroyed something not seen anywhere else in order to build something which can be seen anywhere you go." There is nothing left reflecting the beauty and authenticity of the original monument. Yet, it was theoretically protected since it was listed. We wonder what the purpose of a listing is if it allows a monument to be totally defiled or even destroyed from top to bottom as was the case for the piscine Molitor.

Version française


Didier Rykner, jeudi 10 avril 2014



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