La Chapelle - Doue La Fontaine
Doué La Fontaine is a town situated between Angers and Saumur on the routes D 761 and D 960. The church can be found near the Super U supermarket, just off the road from Doué to Cholet, and its spire is clearly visible from the supermarket car-park. Just beyond the car-park is a small roundabout, and past that is the Rue du Portail, which will give access to the church
The district of La Chapelle was originally quite distinct from Doué, together with another district, Douces, but they were all joined together in 1841 to form the single commune of Doué La Fontaine with a population at the time of 3079 inhabitants. In 2017 the town was redesignated to Doué en Anjou.
Meanwhile the original church, which had suffered from ruinous reconstruction and repairs between the 15th and 18th centuries, was demolished in 1864. The mayor, Monsieur Vaslin, organised a well known architect, Joly Laterme, to provide plans for a new church on the site. This was done and approved by the local authority. The estimated cost of 32 thousand francs was found to be far too low when it was discovered that the builders in 1868 had to go down by seven metres to find solid foundations, the cost nearly doubling.
Eventually, work interrupted during the war of 1870 was completed in 1871.
The church, dedicated to Notre Dame, is in the form of a Latin cross, the nave consisting of two bays ornamented in the Roman style. The glass, made by Truffier and Martin in Angers, represented in the chancel the Immaculate Virgin with the “écusson” of Doué and the date of its construction, 1871, at the side of St Joseph.
In the transept is a window depicting St Camille de Lellis (In Rome, 1614, she with St Jean de Dieu was the patron of nurses). The last known Curé, before the church became the Catholic English speaking church of Anjou in 2003, was Father Charles Rondeau, who celebrated Mass there until 1968. In 2005 Saint Thomas More was added to Our Lady as patrons of the Chaplaincy.
The Original church, c1100
The site is in fact very ancient. Indeed the first chapel, built near the old Chateau, goes back to the end of the 5th century and was constructed by Guillaume Ruffanus (William the Ruffian), the local Knight, to atone for his sins. Doué La Fontaine is situated very near the boundaries of Poitou and Anjou and it is of interest to note that in those early days it was under the Bishop of Poitiers, the spiritual side was in the Poitiers Diocese whilst the temporal aspect was associated with Anjou.
The foundation of Notre Dame de la Chapelle can be said to have been at the end of the 11th century in 1090.· Early in the 12th Century, the monks at St Maur, near Gennes, established a priory in the district with a new building, the church, adjacent to it and soon formed a parish with the support of the famous Count Foulques. The Curé held Mass twice a week, on Sundays and on all the principal feast days.
The new church was completed about 1105 in the new Roman style of the 11th century with the tower added somewhat later during the first part of the 12th century, some decades later.
The church was dedicated to Notre Dame, but with a secondary patron St Hilaire. As mentioned already, the church was demolished when the present church was constructed in the second half of the 19th century.
(Translation, from the French source Doué et son Histoire: Henri Prud’homme.)