Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 20, 2003
In search of St. Julien
The Apostle of Main performed many miracles
St. John the Evangelist - Feast Day - December 27
By TED FITZGERALD
This humble, dedicated missionary/bishop was declared venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1966
The building's 13th century chevet, embellished from an earlier Romanesque design, with its projecting gargoyles, piers and pinnacles is the crowning glory of Gothic art. It's famous for the ingenious "split," Y-shaped flying buttresses, designed to accommodate the unusual exterior radiating chapels and to prevent shadows from falling on the glorious stained glass windows of the apse.
One attention-getter on the church's exterior is the famed south "milk stone" porch, once the venue for farm produce sellers. Its statue-columns are contemporary with the larger ones of the Royal Doorway at Chartres Cathedral.
Inside, St. Julien's abounds in medieval art treasures. There are tombs of royalty, fantastic huge rose windows in the transepts and a very old Ascension window.
At the severe west front, visitors pass through the oldest part of the church - the heavy Romanesque fa‡ade, a relic from the days of William's "problem." The main body of the rebuilt (1158) nave exhibits groined vaults of intermediate Angevin or Plantagenet styles.
Pride of the cathedral is Our Lady's chapel, central of the five chapels protruding from the apse. Recently restored, its vaulted ceiling displays brilliant 14th century murals of an Angel Concert.
Royals Geoffrey Plantagenet and Matilda, brought their newborn son Henri, to be baptized at St. Julien's. He went on to become in 1154, King Henry II of England and is thought to have encouraged devotion to the saint because of his origins. A number of old Norman churches in England bear Julien's name. The king eventually retired in Le Mans but was evicted from the city by his son Richard the Lionheart.
Other than through participation in the famous Le Mans Road Races, there's a strong Canadian connection with the city.
Young Vital Grandin experienced his first taste of education from the Le Mans bishop's secretary in 1845. He attended the seminary here, went on to enrol in the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and was both ordained and ultimately consecrated bishop in 1859 by the order's founder, St. Eugene Mazenod. Vital shepherded the faithful in Western Canada for many years as Bishop Grandin of St. Albert.
His last visit to friends and relatives, and final Mass, was celebrated at Le Mans in 1893, nine years before his death at St. Albert. This humble, dedicated missionary/bishop was declared venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1966 and his cause for canonization is being advanced.
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