Le Corbusier’s chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp was defaced last Friday by vandals who destroyed part of the iconic structure beyond repair. Love it or hate it, Le Corbusier’s work is often cited as pivotal in the development of modern architecture, and the Ronchamp chapel, constructed in 1955, is considered to be one of his most unusual and bold buildings. In addition to designing the building, Le Corbusier contributed art in the form of colored glass windows, which he hand painted. One of these one-of-a-kind windows was smashed on Friday and a small concrete trunk was removed from inside the building.
The broken window and the other windows in the church are not made from stained glass, because Le Corbusier considered stained glass to be too similar to the old ways of architecture. Instead, he hand-painted the glass with his own personal lexicon of symbols and words. The destroyed window contained a sun-like image surrounded by crude clouds.
It also appears that the vandals attempted to gain entry through a door but failed, possibly prompting them to break the window to gain access. Because the window was hand-painted, it is impossible to replace. Upon assessment, the windows was deemed to be priceless and irreparable. The Fondation Le Corbusier has called for immediate measures to protect the site from further damage, and it also took the opportunity to point out the existing structural problems within the church, like moisture issues and failing masonry, hoping to call attention to building’s preservation needs. You can view a video of the damage here.