Anglican Worship in Lausanne, Rosemary Raedler-Hacking
End of the Napoleonic wars in Europe. Travel and the “Grand Tour” were again possible
Wishing to worship in their own tradition the many English residents and visitors sought, and received, permission to celebrate the Anglican rites.
10th November 1816 : the first service was held in the Chapelle de la Mercerie (now a gym attached to the Gymnase de la Cité)
A certain George Twetshel Hankin, domiciled in the canton from 1792 until his death in 1839, was one of the founding members of the “English Church” in Lausanne. He was also one of the founding members of the Lausanne Cercle littéraire. In 1816 he accompanied the Revd Thruston to the Municipality of Lausanne to donate in aid of the poor the entire collection of this first Anglican service
17th June 1817 : Lady Harriett Stratford Canning, wife of the British ambassador Viscount Stratford Canning, died in childbirth in Lausanne. Due to the important role played by her husband as a member of the Committee for Swiss Affairs at the Congress of Vienna 1814-1815 guaranteeing the independence of the canton de Vaud (Metternich wanted to return Vaud to Bern), the Conseil d’Etat took a one off decision authorising her burial in the Lausanne Cathedral. The monument was sculptured in Florence by Lorenzo Bartolini between 1818-1819 . Since 1803 she is the only person to have benefited from such a decision.
15th July 1818 : the first Constitution of the English Church was drawn up to provide for regular Anglican worship, which continues to the present day. Right from the start, the financing of the church was an important factor, and that first constitution provided for this through a subscription and collections. The constitution also stipulated that a chaplain should be appointed for a period not exceeding 12 months, and that a religious service should be held every Sunday at half past eleven.
The Reverend Isaac Kendal Cheesbrough, began his ministry in 1822 and remained in office for 35 years until his death in 1857. During this period the church community was active and growing. The place of worship changed from the Chapelle de la Mercerie to the newly constructed church at Croix d’Ouchy (Temple des Jordils).
1840 In collaboration with the Vaud Reformed Church, construction of the Temple de la Croix d’Ouchy. A well known English philanthropist, William Haldimand made a generous donation of CHF 75’000.—towards the cost of the building.
The new church was shared with the official Vaud Protestant parish. This arrangement seems to have been harmonious as the Anglican community remained there for the next 39 years. The English Church held two services every Sunday, one at eleven thirty and one at half past three in the afternoon. Apparently the second service was frequently disturbed by noise from the local drinking house! Records show that the congregation was large, and in 1864, the church council asked the local government to increase the seating capacity and provide kneelers to make the church more suitable for Anglican worship. They quickly dropped the idea when they discovered that any improvements would be made at the expense of the English Church.
It’s interesting to note that the same William Haldimand helped finance amongst other things the Greek Revolution (cf. Lord Byron), the building of the Buanderie at the Place de la Riponne in 1850, and the foundation of the Asile des Aveugles (now the Hôpital Ophtalmique)
For many reasons, in particular the growing number of parishioners and the desire to have their own place of worship, the English community in Lausanne (especially the de Cerjat family) decided in 1864 to investigate the possibility of building an English Church. The land was bought and George Edmund Street, a distinguished church architect famous for his Gothic revival style, designed the building. The work was however carried out under the supervision of a Swiss architect, Edouard van Muyden, who modified slightly Street’s design (entrance for ex).The first stone was laid on 19th June 1877. The building work was rapidly completed and the first service was held on 4th July 1878. The church was consecrated nine years later on 6th June 1887 (when the debt had been paid off !).
Two grandsons of Queen Victoria – the future King George V and his brother Albert – were in Lausanne between October 1882 and May 1883. They were accompanied by a number of people including their tutor. One of the aims of the visit was to help the young princes learn French. They attended services at Christ Church and became close to the Priest Robert Eden
To cater for the growing number of worshippers, the building was enlarged in 1898 by the addition of the south aisle including the pillars, and the south transept with the heating chamber below; heating was installed at the same time. Finally in 1899 the surrounding walls, iron railings and gates were completed. Christ Church is the largest Anglican Church in Switzerland.
The building itself is a fine example of the neo-gothic architecture popular in Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria. The exterior is a mixture of Swiss and English church architectural styles of the period; the shape of the main roof with the bell turret is local in style, but the porch with saddle-back roof is English, as is the bonding of the external stonework. However, the interior is typically English. The asymmetrical design (more obvious before the addition of the south aisle), the vaulted ceiling and roof timbers, the rectangular chancel, the columns with capitals and cylindrical abacus, the paired windows with oculus, are all English in style.
Christ church was also the only church, apart from the official Vaud protestant church, authorised to have a bell. The original bell was in fact a ‘great cowbell’. It was replaced by a tubular gong, now removed for reasons of safety.
A magnificent collection of stained glass windows designed and built in London by the firm Clayton and Bell, were brought to Lausanne and installed by the local Swiss Architect. the windows are a perfect example of the « gothic revival » movement. They illustrate stories from the Bible and are also reminders of parishioners and their families. The windows include a number of symbols of the Christian religion (lamb, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John).
Seven of the windows were also donated by and in memory of members of the de Cerjat family (William, Maria, Elizabeth, Helen, Charles, August and Clarisse). The family had emigrated to England in the mid 18th century where descendants were in the army and the church. They all returned to Lausanne in the mid 19th century where they became founding members of the English Church and local philanthropists.
The period between 1878 and 1910 saw the building develop as we see it today.
A small one-manual organ constructed by E.F. Walcker of Ludwigsburg was installed at the time of the original construction. The Swiss firm of Adolphe and Gustave Tschanun enlarged the organ in 1924 resulting in a three-manual organ commanding thirty ranks of pipes in five divisions. Although extremely fragile this beautiful instrument is still in use today
Other work include the oak panelling behind the altar installed in 1900
Christ Church Lausanne, Stained Glass Windows designed and built in London by the firm Clayton and Bell
Christ Church remained a large and active parish until 1914, when the outbreak of war brought many changes to the community. English families left Lausanne to be repatriated and the young men were called up to serve in the British armed forces, many being killed in battle. Despite the massive decline in the English population, services continued throughout the war years.
Christ Church Lausanne: War Memorial 1914-1919
The WWI Memorial Board at Christ Church records eighteen names, by date of death; with one war casualty given on a separate plaque.
At the end of hostilities, the community was rebuilt under the then chaplain, The Rev’d G.A. Bieneman, who was also very active in the burgeoning ecumenical movement. Many Swiss pastors were invited to preach at Christ Church and contacts with the Scots Kirk and the Old Catholic community were strengthened. The famous evangelist Sundar Singh visited the church in 1922.
In 1927, the American Bishop Brent preached at Christ Church for the first ecumenical conference ‘World Conference of Faith and Order’. This is one of the movements which led to the establishment of the World Council of Churches in Geneva in 1948.
However, the financial crises of the inter-war period did not leave Christ Church untouched. And as the political situation deteriorated, English people who had returned at the end of the Great War were forced again to leave. The resulting drop in the size of the congregation had a disastrous effect on the financial position of the church. During the second world war, Christ Church council found themselves obliged to mortgage the building in order maintain Anglican worship in Lausanne.
A Church for Today : after two centuries of Anglican worship in Lausanne, Christ Church community is an established part of the religious life of the city. Ecumenical contacts are maintained and promoted. The Anglican Church was a founder member in 2003 of the Ecumenical Council of Canton Vaud, CECCV, is part of the group of the Lausanne sous-gare churches, and is a member of l’Arzillier “Maison du Dialogue”.
The Church building
A vast restoration campaign has been ongoing for the last few years : to date the roof restoration has been completed, as have the west wall of the building and its magnificent stained glass windows (1996),and the east wall with its elaborate stained glass window (2003).
In 2012 the original damaged wooden floor was replaced with more durable material : a new tiled floor with under floor heating was installed for a cost of CHF 360’000.-. As a result, the Church now has improved acoustics (perfect for perpetuating the Anglican tradition of fine Church music) roof, heating system, west and east windows.