Registered and listed sites

The Chapelle des Ursulines is a jewel of the late 17th century with its painted wooden ceiling


Arriving from Niort in 1631, the Ursulines bought their property in 1636 and built a chapel. In Luçon, the role of the Ursulines was mainly centred on the education of young girls. The chapel's current layout was completed at the end of the 17th century, under the episcopate of Mgr de Barillon, a bishop with a keen interest in art and architecture. The panelled ceiling is covered with a vast painted decoration featuring the instruments of Christ's Passion, numerous floral motifs and many musical instruments. There are also three altarpieces.

There are not enough documents to specify when the chapel was built or decorated. We can place the work as a whole at the end of the 17th century, referring to some of the elements present (shells, style, altarpieces). The names of the builders, sculptors and decorators are also unknown.
The chapel ceiling is 33 m long and 7.50 m wide. It is unique in the west of France. However, documents mention the existence of chapels with altarpieces and painted ceilings in other institutions run by the Ursulines of Jesus.
The chapel was restored in 1975. Its decoration is rich in symbols. The central altarpiece is made of marble (columns) and painted stone that imitates marble. To discover the ceiling, we will look at one panel at a time, starting from the back of the chapel. This approach may reveal a meaning: "From earth to heaven...".

Musical instruments: On the street side: a positive bellows organ - a harp - mandolins
On the courtyard side: a viola da gamba (placed between the musician's legs) - a serpent (wooden instrument, covered in leather, with holes, which disappeared in the middle of the 19th century) - the guitar. In the centre, the angels sing the glory of God "Gloria in excelsis Deo...".

The two side altarpieces. They are made of stone. The statues that occupied the central niche and the small lateral supports are missing.
The Virgin and Child. Solid polychrome wooden sculpture from the early 19th century. It shows Jesus escaping from his Mother. Or that Mary is giving her Son to the world.
The 3 paintings on the street side. These are scenes from the Passion, paired in pairs. They date from the 18th century. You can see : Jesus on the Mount of Olives (the apostles are sleeping) / The kiss of Judas. - Appearance before the High Priest, Caiaphas / Peter's denial (a cockerel can be seen in a window). - Appearance before Pilate / Jesus is taken away to be crucified.
"The Crucifixion": 18th century painting. "The Annunciation", a 19th century canvas that for a long time was placed at the centre of the central altarpiece in place of Sister Angèle Mérici (This latter canvas had been stored in an attic in the Institution.
The marble plaque at the back of the chapel, on the college side, commemorates the sacrifice of eleven Ursuline nuns who refused to take the oath to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy in 1790 and died of neglect in the prisons of Celles-sur-Belle, Niort, Fontenay-le-Comte and Noirmoutier. This plaque was blessed by Mgr François GARNIER in 1991.

  • Groups accepted
  • Types : historic site and monument


Visits languages

  • French



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