CHICAGO — DePaul University is honoring its Vincentian heritage with an exhibition that transports visitors back to 17th century rural France via a model of a historic church created using traditional craftsmanship and 3-D printing.
The tabletop model of the parish church in Folleville, France, where St. Vincent de Paul delivered a 1617 sermon regarded as the genesis of the Vincentian mission, will be unveiled Jan. 26 at the John T. Richardson Library on DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus.
The 2 feet wide by 5 feet long model was commissioned by DePaul University’s Vincentian Studies Institute. DePaul is the nation’s largest Catholic university. It was founded in Chicago in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), a Roman Catholic religious community begun by Vincent in 1625. Vincent, popularly known as the “apostle of charity,” dedicated his life to serving the poor.
Image of Folleville, France church
A 2016 image of the parish church in Folleville, France, where St. Vincent de Paul delivered a sermon in 1617 considered the genesis of the Vincentian mission. A scale model of the church is displayed at the John T. Richardson Library on DePaul University's Lincoln Park Campus.
The Rev. Edward R. Udovic, C.M., a historian and DePaul’s vice president for mission and ministry, described the project as “a long time coming” as planning started in 2012. He wanted to find an appropriate way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian mission and believed creating a model of the church located roughly 75 miles northwest of Paris would be an important and unique contribution to the anniversary celebration.
“DePaul University is the premier international center for Vincentian studies,” Udovic said.
The model will be a permanent exhibition in the Richardson Library. Interactive kiosks providing information on the church’s art, architecture and its Vincentian significance flank the structure.
The model shows the church as it was in 1617 prior to the ravages of history and renovations through the centuries. It depicts the original front façade and steeple and the original choir screen made of richly carved wood. Visitors will be able to peer through cross-sections of the model to appreciate the full beauty of both the interior and exterior of the church.
History meets high tech
Jeff Wrona, who created the St. Lazare diorama in the Richardson Library in 1992, provided the architectural research for the concept and structure of the Folleville model. Architectural model firm Presentation Studios International LLC (PSI) of Chicago completed the model.
“The model came together like a large Lego set,” Udovic said. “Each of the major pieces were individually printed out, joined together, hand-finished and painted.”
The interior is without pews or pulpit because those church furniture items were not present in 1617, he added.
Folleville, then and now
In 1617, the church was on the lands of the powerful and noble Gondi family who served as Vincent’s great and generous patrons.
The church, which is no longer an active parish, continues to attract visitors because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a stop on the northern medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, a Spanish city home to the shrine of St. James the Great.
The church at Folleville is significant in art and architectural history as well as Vincentian history. Originally built as a simple parish church at the beginning of the 15th century, it was remodeled at the beginning of the 16th century with the addition of a flamboyant gothic chapel decorated with important Italian late-medieval sculptures and tombs.
Folleville model unveiling
An official unveiling will take place 3 p.m. Jan. 26 at the DePaul Richardson Library, 2350 N. Kenmore Ave. The event will include welcome and remarks by DePaul’s President A. Gabriel Esteban, Ph.D., and Udovic.
The event will include a foundation day celebration hosted by the Vincentian Community of Rosati House. Attendees are asked to register by Jan. 23 to Alice Farrell at email@example.com or 312-362-8822.