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 3 p.m. at the John T. Richardson Library on DePaul's Lincoln Park Campus.
DePaul University's Vincentian Studies Institute commissioned the model, which is 2 feet wide by 5 feet long. At its highest point, the church's spire, the model is 58 inches tall.
The Rev. Edward R. Udovic, C.M., a historian and DePaul's vice president for mission and ministry, wanted to find an appropriate way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Vincentian mission. Planning started on the model in 2012. Fr. Udovic 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," Fr. Udovic says.
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, the artist 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 of Chicago completed the model.
"The model came together like a large Lego set," Fr. Udovic says. "Each of the major pieces was 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 adds.
Folleville, then and now
In 1617, the church was on the lands of the powerful and noble Gondi family who served as St. 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 late-medieval Italian sculptures and tombs.