The Jesuit Chapel stands out in the urban landscape for its size and vibrant colours
This large edifice illustrates the importance the college held in the town. The college was founded by the Walloon Jesuits in 1556 and was a seat of learning from the Renaissance to the Revolution.
Back when it was founded, the Catholic bishops were confronted with the Reformation movement. They called upon the help of the Company of Jesus, otherwise known as the Jesuits, to give young people the teaching that they believed was right and to train future priests. Saint-Omer thus became one of the main centres of secondary learning and many schools were established here, including a College of English Jesuits.
The chapel was built from 1615 to 1640 by Jean du Blocq (1583-1656), a Jesuit architect who designed the Cathedral of Luxembourg. He was inspired by Gesù, the Jesuit church in Rome, and combined the Gothic tradition in its structure of ribbed vaults, buttresses, and side chapels, with a completely new style based on a single central volume, large scrolls, and an impressive facade with an entrance style that was borrowed from the Italian architect Serlio.
Current restoration work on the building is revealing the full beauty of its sculptures, particularly those of the facade. The architect wanted us to see that he had read The Art of Building and rediscovered the designs used in antiquity, such as those in white stone or the intriguing ox skulls featured in the entrance.
Next to the chapel, the town library has its headquarters in the former university, rebuilt at the end of the 19th Century. It is organized around a garden and edged by four centuries of architecture.