French designer, Mathieu Lehanneur, has done the unthinkable. With his remodel of St Hilaire Church in Melle, France, he has made an ancient Romanesque church, a sleek and design-forward one. By stacking slices of white marble, a continuous landscape and topography now emerges from the archaic stone floor of the church, creating a graceful and exciting dichotomy between the old and the new. This contrived strata is a bold, unique and inspiring intervention within the serene space of the church.

Mathieu Lehanneur:

Prior to the construction of the church. A mineral presence justifying that the church was built there. Reflecting the extreme care paid to the telluric energy of stones and territories in the building of Romanesque churches, this place of worship would have been built on this specific area for the discernable energy that emanates from it.


The liturgical furniture (altar and ambo) is made from coloured alabaster, close to the colour of the original stone of the church. The result is a visual impact, one of Lehanneur’s trade secrets, this time using the purity of the geological chaos to highlight the perfection of the Romanesque geometry.

The main idea of the project was then to accentuate this sensation of progressive discovery and taking root in the land, “I imagine that when this “box” was sunk into the ground as if pushed by an invisible, maybe divine hand, it revealed the geology of it, the visible aspect of a mineral and massive form: a revelation which seems anterior, and not posterior, to the construction of the church.”

This play between anterior or posterior construction allows a relief to be produced which creates a natural hierarchy between the celebrant and the congregation. It simply uses then the site’s topology in order for a better comprehension. An organic architecture which is not though a break with with the liturgical codes and conceals symbolic invariants like the eight sided baptistery or the altar built at the junction of the transept.

(images via designboom)