Church of Saint-Omer 2010 Merck-Saint-Liévin (1)Church Saint Omer 2010 Merck Saint Lievin © Photo Carl Tourisme En Pays De Saint Omer (1)
©Church of Saint-Omer of Merck-Saint-Liévin|Photo Carl - Tourisme en Pays de Saint-Omer

10 country churches worth a visit

A unique religious heritage

When we think of religious heritage in the Pays de Saint-Omer, the first buildings to spring to mind are the more imposing ones like the cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saint-Omer or the collégiale Saint-Pierre d’Aire-sur-la-Lys.

However, let’s not forget all those pretty little (or even big) churches in abundance across our territory. While some are little-known, others classified as Monuments historiques have important histories or surprising anecdotes. Here, venture off the beaten track to discover some of these charming churches.

Northern red brick

Saint-Jacques d'Enquin-lez-Guinegatte church

We start with a rather unusual church as it was rebuilt in red brick in 1960 after its destruction by WWII bombing.

This post-war church stands out in the landscape even though red brick is one of the emblematic materials of Nord Pas-de-Calais. It has nevertheless managed to retain its bronze bell cast by Beaudoin and Jussaud in 1776, and classified in 1943 as a Monuments Historiques movable object.

The arrow in the sky

Saint-Martin d'Esquerdes church

You’re immediately struck by this bell tower, with its spire that seems out of all proportion to the body of the church. There’s a very simple reason for this: the spire was added through the influence of the new Gothic style appearing in the centuries following its creation in the mid-12th century. Saint-Martin church is one of the few churches in Pas-de-Calais to date from the transition between the Romanesque and Gothic ages.

Gothic fittings are no stranger to the presence of the lords of Esquerdes, among them the illustrious Philippe de Crèvecœur, knight of the Golden Fleece, whose castle opposite still stands its 15th-century tower.

Now on the route of the via francigena, it delights all walkers and pilgrims who rediscover this building and its rich past.

All styles in one

The three steeples of Mametz

This is not one church but three selected churches. It’s hard to decide between them, but they have the particularity of being on a lovely hiking trail: le sentier des trois clochers.

This 15 km trail will allow you to discover the three villages that earn Mametz its nickname of Village aux Trois Clochers. The church of Saint-Vaast in Mametz, the church of Saint-Quentin in the hamlet of Marthes and the church of Saint-Honoré in Crecques allow you to see almost every architectural style on a single trail.

The valiant Jehan de Terline

Church of Sainte-Colombe in Blendecques

Esthetically already, Sainte-Colombe church, built between 1858 and 1870, is an edifice subtly blending the neo-Romanesque with a few Gothic elements: pointed steeple, ribbed crossing, etc…

The real treasure is a magnificent 16th-century carved furniture from the Dames de Sainte-Colombe abbey, as well as a stela in tribute to its Great War aviator hero, Jehan de Terline, born in 1892 in Blendecques.

The young fighter, born on July 21, 1892 in Blendecques, entered the Neuvième régiment de cuirassiers in 1914.

Becoming a skilled aviator, he scored two victories in 1916, but it was the third that made him a household name. On July 27, 1916, running low on ammunition, he deliberately chose to swoop down on his adversary, a German albatross, which was carrying out important photo missions. After the collision and a vertiginous fall, both the German crew and the valiant aviator died in the crash. This deliberate boarding would be seen as an act of great bravery, and would earn the Blendecquois posthumous fame.

Heritage and hiking

Church of the Sacred Heart of Tilques

Another pretty church on the edge of a hiking trail, you might ask? Yes, but this one is the starting and finishing point of one of the region’s prettiest hikes: the Lansbergue.

A trail in the heart of the Audomarois marshlands, the Lansbergue blends nature and heritage with the Sacré-Coeur church and its neo-Gothic style.

The shining organ

Saint-Médard Church in Tournehem-sur-la-Hem

Rebuilt in the Gothic tradition in the 17th and 18th centuries, Saint-Médard church boastsexceptional furnishings, including an organ dating from the 18th century and a set of eight panels painted on both sides depicting the Passion of Christ and a few complementary scenes featuring Saints Francis, Gregory and John.

It is also related to the great History of France through its creation in the 15th century by Antoine de Bourgogne, known as the Great Bastard of Burgundy, an emblematic figure in the History of France.

The dean

Sainte-Pétronille d'Acquin-Westbécourt church

Dating in all probability from the 15th century, Sainte-Pétronille is a Gothic-style church belonging to the Saint-Bertin abbey, with its only legacy the Guérardine bell saved from the Revolution. It had four bells, including one dedicated to Gérard d’Haméricourt, the first bishop of Saint-Omer. The building, like the neighboring farm, was built with chalk quarried from the Acquin hillsides. Sainte-Pétronille is certainly the oldest church in the Saint-Omer region.

The church in the market gardening district

Immaculate Conception Church, Saint-Omer

Yes, your view is correct and yes the photographer has correctly aligned his camera. The peculiarity of this church is that it isleaning in the manner of the Tower of Pisa.

In fact, its curious tilt is due to the movements of the marshy ground. Nicknamed the “Cathedral of the suburbs”, this church is also the gathering point for the cortège nautique, the carnival of floral floats in July.

The sailors' rendezvous

Saint-Omer Church in Merck-Saint-Liévin

L’église Saint-Omer de Merck-Saint-Liévin is one of the most beautiful churches in the Artois region. Burnt down in 1638 by French troops, then looted in 1710, and damaged during the First World War, it boasts a magnificent openwork bracketed spire raised in the 16th century.

Its particularity is that it is above all a place of pilgrimage for sailors to venerate the relics of the Irish saint-Liévin. Indeed, every year on the first Sunday in July, mass is celebrated in memory of Saint Liévin in the presence of Boulonnais sailors in particular, and with the traditional distribution of blessed bread. The cult of Saint Liévin began in the 17th century.

The fountain of youth

Saint-Michel de Roquetoire Church

Located in the heart of a Heritage Village between the towns of Aire-sur-la-Lys and Saint-Omer, the church of Saint-Michel de Roquetoire is surprisingly visible behind the village rooftops.

The origins of this small village go back a very long way, with a thermal spa already existing in ancient times on this already inhabited land. Water is very important in the history of this commune, as the legend of the Saint-Michel spring indicates.

According to legend, Saint Michel caused a spring to gush forth during a period of great drought. Since the time of Saint Louis, the church has been placed under his patronage. The Saint-Michel fountain still exists and has never run dry, it is said.