Kippinge Church is known for its rich Renaissance furnishings and its frescos from the mid-14th century. By 1338, the villages of Vester- and Østerkippinge had grown up on either side of the parish church, which remained on an isolated site in the countryside. In the Middle Ages, the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. At the beginning of the 16th century, the Crown had calling rights for the appointment of clergy similar to the English advowson. In 1767, it was sold into private ownership but was soon reacquired by the State until 1868, when it was sold to the citizens of the parish. It gained full independence in 1938.
The nave, culminating in a chancel with a three-sided end, was built of red brick on a sloping plinth in the Early Gothic style c. 1300. The north door, with its pointed arch, and the priest's door are bricked in while the somewhat modified south door is still in use. The porch and tower were added in the Late Gothic period. The west chapel, adjoining the tower, which is no doubt connected with the pilgrimages, was built slightly before theReformation. The chancel initially had five small pointed windows which have been replaced with more recent round-arched windows. The Baroque spire was renovated in 1911. Its base takes the form of a sturdy dome with an octagonal lantern. The spire proper is tall and thin.
The church provides excellent examples of work intricately carved by Jørgen Ringnis in the Auricular style. The altarpiece (1633), with a central painting probably by Anthonius Clement, is flanked by the figures of Matthew and Mark. It also presents female figures symbolizing Faith, Hope and Charity and is decorated with angels. The pedestal has two figures of Christ, one at his christening, the other at the Last Supper. The figures of Luke and John stand on either side of the cornice.
The elaborately carved octagonal font and canopy are also by Ringnis (1635), the base bearing the figures of the four Evangelists. The double-arched panels present theAnnunciation, Christ's birth, the Adoration of the Magi and the Circumcision. The canopy, shaped as an octagonal lantern with arched panels as in the base, bears male and femaleherms. In the centre, there is a baptismal scene with naked figures. The highly coloured and gilded finish has been restored. The lattice choir screen (1650) consists of nine panels decorated with flowers, herms and symbols of the virtues. The pedestal bears the naked figures of Adam and Eve while the upper cartouche presents Christ bearing the globe. The screen was decorated by Hans Lauridsen in 1680, who also added the six small paintings of a woman in various positions. Ringnis' pulpit (1631) is similar to that in Nakskov Churchwith figures of the Evangelists and of John the Baptist, Christ and Moses. The coloured decorations and paintings are probably the work of Anthonius Clement.
The church has two old crucifixes, one from the 14th century, the other from the 15th century. The old font in the west chapel is of Gotland limestone. Its base is decorated with four heads.
The frescos in the chancel vault are from c. 1300. They were rediscovered under the limewash in 1904 and restored in 1909. The well executed paintings present images principally from Genesis, Chapters 3 and 4, by artists from the Kippinge workshop. In the east panel, Christ flanked by Mary and John the Baptist and two angels can be seen. To the west are frescos of Adam and Eve and the sacrifice of Cain and Abel. The north panel shows the Fratricide and St Michael combating the dragon. The eastern side of the north vault presents the Annunciation adjacent to the Fall.
Kippinge Church is famous for the pilgrims it attracted over the centuries thanks to three reputed miracles. The first miracle was the bleeding Sacrament in 1492. The second was a miraculous altarpiece depicting the Virgin Mary. The church subsisted as a result of the healing properties of its holy spring.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.