Francis Chigot, the illuminator of our churches

Granite is omnipresent in Creuse. It is soil, houses, low walls, bridges, castles, churches and statues… Grey, blue, beige or even pinkish, it is composed of quartz, feldspar and micas that makes it sparkle in the sun! With it, our buildings take on a massive and almost indestructible appearance. Lightness, fragility and light come from these colored bays, stained glass. They tell stories and brighten up the buildings. The sun plays with and deposits yellow, red or blue flashes on the ground, like so much colored confetti.

The churches and chapels of Creuse are full of treasures. Sculptures and paintings are ubiquitous and quite often attract our full attention. Some stained glass windows stand out however by the scenes they represent, their workmanship, their colors. We suggest you take a closer look at these works and in particular those of the M Maître Verrier who created for more than 50 years in Limousin and very largely in Creuse, Francis Chigot.

A native of Saint Léonard de Noblat (he was born in Limoges in 1879), Francis Chigot married a woman from Creuse and builds very strong ties with our department. After his studies, and the resumption of the family business of wallpapers in Limoges, he finally embarks on his passion, stained glass, by opening his own workshop.

This is then the great era of the‘Art Nouveau. To make himself known, he participates in fairs and exhibitions in France and far beyond. Many glazed ceilings and staircase bays are then ordered to him (casino of Vichy…). In 1917, he restored the remarkable stained glass “The Tree of Jesse” from 1522 of the Chapelle Notre Dame de la Borne (commune of Saint Michel de Veisse). This is his first contract with the Monuments Historiques. The quality of its restoration is praised by all and marks the beginning of a long series.

With the 1920s comes “Art Deco”. The lines are more stylized, the colors less sharp, the glass less smooth and plain. The fashion passes in private homes but public buildings are always in demand (Benedictine station, Bank of France in Limoges…).

At the same time, thanks to a permanent exhibition in Montreal, Chigot and his collaborators get contracts in Canada (Basilica ND de Montléal…). But his work is still as intense in France, especially in churches that see their bays dressed with modern stained glass.

A series of stained glass windows in Creuse churches began before World War II and lasted until the late 1950s (Saint Michel de Veisse, Soubrebost, Ars, Saint Hilaire le Château…). Once again, Chigot knew how to adapt to the abstract fashion of the time.

Few people know that the stained glass windows of Soulages at the Abbey of Conques, replaced the 104 pieces made from 1941 by Francis Chigot!!

His achievements are not all signed. For one series, only one canopy will bear the inscription “F. Chigot”, then from 1947, “F. and P. Chigot” following the association with his son Pierre in 1947. After 1958, the signature becomes simply “Chigot”. After his death in 1960, his former collaborators and workers having formed a SCOP, it is “l‘Atelier du Vitrail” which finishes its sites and continues to work in churches. It is, moreover, this workshop that made lthe stained glass windows of the church of Sous-Parsat from the cartoons of Gabriel Chabrat.

(based on information from Martine Tandeau de Marsac, granddaughter of Francis Chigot)