The Church in Gesté Vandalized and still Threatened

1. The Village and the Church of Gesté
Photo : Didier Rykner

14/5/13 - Heritage - Gesté, church - Is the city of Gesté above the law and the authority of the courts which judged this case ? This is at least the impression given by the mayor and his municipal council who once again voted, Monday 6 May, their determination to partially demolish the church and, in passing, asked for bids from competing companies for this destruction.

However, we should remember that the Administrative court of Nantes, after an appeal, cancelled the destruction permit since the decision was "sullied by a manifest error of appreciation" for at least two reasons : the architectural interest of the building and its acceptable state of preservation which is not in danger of falling into ruin. The Conseil d’Etat had also rejected the request for an appeal to the high court submitted by Gesté City Hall.
The court’s decision is therefore clear and final : the church cannot be demolished [1].

2. The Inside of the Church
in May 2007
Photo : Didier Rykner

3. The Inside of the Church
on 14 May 2013
the altar has been broken
Photo : AMVPG

We know from the example at Abbéville that in order to demolish a building, one need only abandon it without any maintenance then claim (as always happens eventually) that it is a menace for public safety. Since our visit to Gesté, the association Mémoire Vivante du Patrimoine Gestois (AMVPG) which is fighting to save the church, has observed that its deterioration is accelerating : the Way of the Cross has disappeared, the altar has been broken (ill. 2), the gutters are left plugged up and the rain falls inside (ill. 3), the pigeons invade the nave and their droppings are strewed all over the floor (ill. 4), some of the furniture in the sacristy has disappeared, as have many of the church vestments (from the Empire period according to the association). This is an act of deliberate vandalism.

4. The Inside of the Church
on 14 May 2013
Water and pigeon droppings cover the floor.
The Way of the Cross has disappeared
Photo : AMVPG

5. The Church of Gesté overlooking the village
Photo : Didier Rykner

The association has turned to its lawyer but appears disarmed by such a scandalous turn of events. We can duly ask ourselves if we are living in a law abiding state : the sub-prefect of Cholet met with the association on 4 February 2013 and basically told them the same thing as the mayor, ignoring the court’s decision. What is the French Ministry of Culture doing about it ? It appears to have disappeared from the face of the earth since the affair began.
We would like to reiterate that the architectural quality of the building and its insertion in the surrounding landscape (ill. 5) make the lack of protection by the government totally incomprehensible. This church deserves to be listed as a historical monument and reparation work begun immediately.
We hope at least that next year the residents of Gesté will send the mayor back home when they go to the voting polls, as his one goal in life seems to be the destruction of the church in the village where he was once elected.

Version française

Didier Rykner, jeudi 16 mai 2013


[1] Readers should consult the text of this passage from the decree issued by the Administrative appeals court in order to understand all the consequences of this decision.

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