In Alpe d’Huez, a village and ski resort in the Isère, stands a remarkable church called Notre-Dame des Neiges. The church, completed in 1970, was built to replace a small wooden chapel in the same location. The idea came about in preparation for the 1968 Olympics, and under the leadership of Father Jaap Reuten, who was a priest from 1964 to 1992, funding was made possible by donations from parishioners and other benefactors.
The architecture of the church is strikingly modern and symbolic. The roof follows the circular movement of a tent, suggesting that God pitched his tent on Alpe d’Huez, similar to the story of Abraham in the desert. The entrance to the church is at the back, through the choir, which is the heart of the building. After entering the church through a long entrance called the narthex, which acclimatizes you to the darkness and prepares you for meditation, you come to a shaft of light in the center of the building. This shaft acts as the mast that supports the tent and also serves as a central point around which attendees sit in a circle, similar to gathering around a campfire. In addition, the church’s central mast is aligned with two other bell towers in the congregation, emphasizing that religion connects people.
The church houses a unique organ called Christophe-Raphaël, built in 1978 by organ builder Detlef Kleuker to the design of composer and former titular organist Jean Guillou of Saint-Eustache in Paris. The organ stands in the center of the skylight, and is shaped like a hand reaching toward heaven. The fingers of this hand contain the pipes of the organ, which has 24 stops. Remarkably, the organ’s keyboards face the audience, allowing spectators to enjoy the organist’s playing in an unusual way.
During the winter and summer seasons, concerts are organized every Thursday evening in the church, initiated by the Notre-Dame des Neiges-Orgues et montagnes association (www.orguesetmontagnes.com). These concerts are participated in several times a year by renowned organists and orchestras from all over the world. There are also organ courses given in the summer by Jean-Paul Imbert and David Cassan.
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Trumpet Gigue in G major (2023) (Popup Player)