The thousand years of the church in Bagnols-sur-Cèze, an event dear to the priest Abinader

The Saint Jean-Baptiste church has benefited from a titanic renovation program.

François Abinader has started packing. In two months, the priest of the parish ensemble of Bagnols will give his farewell mass. After twelve years spent in the Rhone Gard, the man of the Church is leaving for Milhaud. “It is customary to change parishes, it breathes new life into the church, it is a necessity for the parishioners as well as for us”, explains François Abinader, nevertheless very attached to the parish community.

His arrival in Bagnols will undoubtedly have breathed new life into the church, through the major renovation work undertaken in 2011. “I did not see the time pass, yet it is very rich twelve years”, says the priest.

The organ of the Saint Jean-Baptiste church dates from 1701.

“From my second year in Bagnols, I had the objective of restoring this church, which was black, dirty… Nobody wanted to go there”, recalls François Abinader. The first pickaxe in the cellars of the presbytery, on June 4, 2011, heralds the start of this great adventure. The project seemed titanic, but with the help of volunteers, 150 tons of rubble were taken out of the cellars, “they were inaccessible, there were rats and mice”, remembers the priest of Bagnols.

During this first project, the volunteers discovered a well and an old bread oven. “It was a place of life”, says François Abinader. Unrecognizable today, these cellars house an exhibition of old objects and a magnificent reception area.

Eight years later, work on the entire Saint Jean-Baptiste church was inaugurated. To achieve this, it took almost 2 million euros. 50% of the project was funded by private donors, “we have forged strong ties, and the parishioners have been very generous”.

This weekend, the 1,000 years of the church will be celebrated, “very few churches are that age, this event finally is the culmination of what we have done since the beginning”, says François Abinader, with emotion. Celebrating the 1,000 years of the church is also rewarding the investment of the priest and the work of the volunteers without whom this piece of heritage would not have regained all its splendor.

From June 24 to 26, concerts and shows are organized (see article below) and on Sunday September 4, priest Abinader will give his farewell mass, followed by an aperitif and a meal.

Concerts to celebrate the millennium

Three days of concerts are organized to highlight and celebrate the 1,000 years of the church.

This is the first major high-quality cultural event of the summer for the Bagnolais,” announces Michel Cegielski, deputy mayor responsible for promoting the arts, culture and twinning. From June 24 to 26, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church will celebrate its 1,000th anniversary.

For the occasion, concerts and events will take place in the church, which can accommodate around 400 people. For Mayor Jean-Yves Chapelet, “this is the right time to highlight a heritage, a place and an architecture”. On June 23, the church steeple will be illuminated to shimmer across the landscape.

On Friday evening, the first concert will be animated by a piano-organ duo with Caroline Khachatourian, who taught for ten years at the Bagnols dance and music conservatory, and the Bagnolais Michel Chanard. On Saturday, a free sound and light show will take over the church from 10 p.m.

The show will retrace the history of Bagnols and its church through the ages. Father François Abinader has also written a book with archival images in particular which was used to organize the sound and light show.

On Sunday, the bishop will travel to Bagnols to attend a very rare show in France: a concert played by four pianos and a string orchestra. It will also be an opportunity for visitors to take guided tours of the church after its restoration.

The latter was completely restored between 2017 and 2019, in particular with stained glass windows redone by a specialized artist or the restoration of paintings. “It’s very rare to do a complete restoration of a church, everything has been taken over! » welcomes Monique Graziano-Bayle, deputy delegate for the follow-up of intermunicipal projects.

> Prices: Friday, June 24 €13, €7 reduced rate, Sunday, June 26 €18, €13 reduced rate. Tickets available at Fnac or on site

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The thousand years of the church in Bagnols-sur-Cèze, an event dear to the priest Abinader