10 Facts About Le Chêne Chapelle

Ji-Elle, Wikimedia Commons
Ji-Elle, Wikimedia Commons / Ji-Elle, Wikimedia Commons

Everything you need to know about France’s coolest treehouse/church.

1. Locals in the French village of Allouville-Bellefosse swear that William the Conqueror prayed at the base of the tree before heading out on his famous conquest.

2. While the tree isn’t quite that old, it’s no spring chicken. It almost met a grim fate when lightning struck it in the 17th century, gutting its trunk.

3. Not wanting to let a little lightning ruin a perfectly good tree, two monks began sprucing up the hollowed interior.

4. Before long, they’d built a full shrine to the Virgin Mary, complete with a chapel. The tree became known as Le Chêne Chapelle (“the Chapel Oak”).

5. But one chapel wasn’t enough. A second one and an external staircase were later added.

6. Even without the lightning, the oak’s survival would be miraculous. At 800 years, it’s France’s oldest known tree.

7. When churches fell on the chopping block during the French Revolution, the tree stopped being a chapel and became a “temple of reason.”

8. Efforts to maintain the aging tree have given it something of a Tim Burton feel. Shingles now cover parts of the trunk where the bark has fallen off.

9. Poles prop up parts of the tree that might otherwise tumble.

10. Worshipers still gather in the chapel for mass twice a year!

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