“I am getting a church nobody has seen before!”

After a devasting fire, the historic St Donatien Basilica is now completely renovated and, thanks to Osmo coatings, fully accessible again.

With its façade, two square towers and stain-glass rosette, St Donatien Basilica in Nantes, France is considered a monument to late 19th century architecture. With 40 metres in height, the basilica is an imposing feature in the cityscape and is regarded a local landmark. Understandably city inhabitants were horrified to see how the historic place of worship stood in flames on the early morning of 15 June 2015. Fortunately all church-goers and visitors could be brought to safety; unfortunately the blaze destroyed the roof and greatly weakened the entire structure. When faced with the extent of damage, city authorities as cost bearer decided to completely renovate the interior and exterior.

Renovation works were headed by Heritage Architect Pierluigi Pericolo and were carried out in two phases. In the first phase, focus was placed on salvage works as well as stabilizing and securing any still existing building elements. During this, all rumble and burnt wood were removed and the entire building was covered to prevent further damage from weathering. The actual renovation works took place in the second more complicated phase. At the workshops of Cruard Carpentry, the new timber roof framework made of Oak and softwood was put together into several assembly units. On site, the entire roof framework was assembled unit-for-unit over the whole length; subsequently the roof and vaulted ceilings were installed. To enable further restoration works, attic pathways were laid in the roof framework; afterwards masonry and windows could be renovated.

St Donatien Basilica - France

As part of the remodelling project, the walls, floors and painted decorations in the choir were also restored. The area surrounding the altar is known as the choir. The Oak flooring on the ambulatory round the choir had already been heavily damaged by mould attack prior to the fire, and water from extinguishing the flames fully destroyed the still existing flooring material. Thus, Cruard Carpentry had to completely remove and install new flooring. To give the floor an appropriate antique look, floorboards were left unsanded and were partially laid with a slight distortion. A coloration suitable for the desired antique look was achieved with Osmo Hartwachs-Öl Original 3073 Terra. With this transparent coloured satin wood stain, the colour of wood can be changed effortlessly. Thanks to the plant ingredients, a uniform and seamless appearance is possible without any visible transitions. To protect the colour pigments optimally against abrasion, the Oak flooring was treated with a top coat of Osmo Hartwachs-Öl Original 3065 Semi-matt. Hartwachs-Öl Original gives the flooring not only the desired sheen, but also makes the surface stain-resistant, water repellent and extremely durable. Both Hartwachs-Öl Original as well as Hartwachs-Öl Farbig are based on natural oils and waxes and create a microporous and breathable wood surface.

Six years to the day after the fire, city authorities officially handed over the “keys” in a ceremony to Rev Bonnet, the basilica’s priest. After the long wait and many days of worrying, Rev Bonnet became, of course, very emotional when the keys were handed over. He expressed his great anticipation of the event by saying, “I am getting a church nobody has seen before! Not even me! When I first came to the church, it was black. Today it is white.”