In Bois-Grenier, a new church for a new town

The churches of our towns and villages hold many stories… Focus on particular churches in Weppes (some of which have disappeared). Another stop at Bois-Grenier, where the church was founded at the same time as the village.

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Bois-Grenier is a very young town: it celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2004!

This new commune was indeed born in 1854 from the dismemberment of territories of the communes of Erquinghem-Lys and Armentières. The origins of the village go back however to a seigniory of the same name which is quoted from the 16th century.

The village website provides information on the history of the church. It originates from a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Wilgeforte, the holy bearded! The first chapel probably dates from the 11th century, then it was rebuilt and enlarged by Louis Dommessent, lord of Bois-Grenier, in 1464. The choir of this chapel was on the site of the bell tower of the current church.

The chapel was enlarged again in 1842. The work was financed by the Bide de la Grandville family, and it was built by Mr. Ramon, a mason from Houplines. The stained glass windows represent the lives of Saint Léon and Saint Charles, patrons of the Grandville family. Behind the altar, it seems that there was a wooden statue of the Virgin, whose heart carried seven swords, hence the dedication of the current church to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.

In 1850, Bois-Grenier was finally erected into a parish, then became a commune in 1854. In 1856, the commune launched work on its church, on the grounds of the chapel. The 35 m bell tower was erected in 1862 and a new bell, named “Marie-Caroline”, was cast to accompany the old bell from 1760 named “Catherine”. The work was completed laboriously in 1873.

Then comes the Great War and its destruction. The bell tower was hit by a shell on October 31, 1914, then the rest of the church gradually disappeared, over the bombings. The church was rebuilt in 1926.

Wilgeforte, the strange bearded saint

The other particularity of the church of Bois-Grenier is its holy brill… which is not! Indeed, Saint Wilgeforte is represented as any other saint, but in fact, she is a bearded saint.

There are various legends that explain her beard: according to the sources, she invokes the lord to make her ugly in order to escape aggressors, her incestuous father or an enemy lord. Either way, she ends up accused of witchcraft and perishes crucified. Today, this saint has become an icon… of LGBT culture.

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Bois-Grenier (59280, North)

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In Bois-Grenier, a new church for a new town

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