The Église Saint-Nicaise is an example of 1920s religious architecture, commissioned by Georges Charbonneaux on a site at the heart of the Chemin Vert garden city in order to exert a spiritual influence on the surrounding area. The architecture is based on a quest for simple volumes, modern materials (reinforced concrete and moulded glass), and respect for traditional forms.
The church was awarded historic monument status in 2002 and forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars.
Jean-Marcel Auburtin, architect of the entire Chemin Vert garden city project, was the person behind the design of the truly remarkable Saint-Nicaise Church, built in Romanesque-Byzantine-style. The exterior of the church is simple, built in reinforced concrete and cement rendering and laid out in the form of a Greek cross, giving the church a compact and solid appearance that blends well into the rest of the garden city. The interior however is highly ornate. Georges Charbonneaux commissioned the most renowned artists of the period, in particular those involved in the resurgence of Sacred Art in the early 20th century. These distinguished artists included Gustave Jaulmes (decorative paintings in the nave), Maurice Denis (paintings in the side chapels and frescoes in the baptistery), Roger de Villiers and Emma Thiollier (sculptures), Reims artist Jean Berque (Stations of the Cross), and Jacques Simon (stained glass windows and lights). And of course René Lalique (from Aÿ), at the peak of his artistic powers, who was personally approached by Georges Charbonneaux and went on to leave his unique imprint on the region.
The church was built thanks to the generosity of some 250 donors, with Georges Charbonneaux donating the largest sum. The foundation stone was laid on 7th May 1923 and the building was inaugurated on 8th June 1924 by the Archbishop of Reims, Cardinal Luçon.
“Les Amis de Saint-Nicaise du Chemin Vert” (Friends of Saint-Nicaise Church) Association - 8, rue Lanson - 51100 Reims