I previously stopped at Briare-le-Canal in February 2014 for some lunch and a stroll across the amazing canal bridge designed by the school of Eiffel. Returning this way, I felt the need to spend a bit more time exploring the town and I was not disappointed with what I found.
The River Loire and the Lateral Canal are the life blood of the town and naturally tourism has a big part to play in its economy, but back in the 19th century there was another big employer, the enamel factory owned by the Bapterosses family.
When the factory was founded in 1851, the population of the town was dramatically increased and Mr Bapterosses concluded that the small parish church would no longer be sufficient. So, he decided to fund the construction of a new church which was finally started in 1890 after 30 years of discussion. Using the skills of his employees, the church was richly decorated, both inside and out, with mosaic friezes and floors depicting flora and fauna, as well as symbols representing the ages of life, the 5 senses and the 4 elements. The floor medallions flow up the aisles like a river and in the altar and choir area is a red carpet design.
Unfortunately Mr Bapterosses died before the church was completed, so he never got to see and appreciate his accomplishment. Today, a bust of Mr Bapterosses sits in the square in front of the church, but it bizarrely faces away from the church.