Notre Dame du Rugby – Larrivière-Saint-Savin, France - Atlas Obscura
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Larrivière-Saint-Savin, France

Notre Dame du Rugby

This medieval chapel is now a shrine to the region's favorite sport. 

Step inside this medieval chapel, and you’ll soon realize this is no ordinary church. Sunlight filters in through gorgeous stained glass windows, all of which center on an activity certainly not mentioned in the Bible: rugby. The glass artwork shows Jesus huddled in a scrum, throwing a ball, and even depicts him as a young child clutching a rugby ball while settled in his mother’s lap.

The whole building is a shrine of sorts to the region’s favorite sport. In 1956, Michel Devert, a rugby fan, was sent as parish priest to the region, which also happens to be a part of France where rugby is revered. He found the old ruins of the church hidden beneath tangles of brambles. 

Later, after three young rugby players died in a car accident, the friar became determined to honor their memories and protect other players of the region’s beloved sport. He got to work renovating the abandoned chapel, slowly building it into the rugby haven it is today.

Creating this unique chapel was a community-wide endeavor. Regional rugby teams helped raise money to support the project, and players from various local clubs built the road leading up to the building.

Inside, bathed in the glow of the unusual stained glass windows, rugby kit donated by players around the world lines the walls. Muddy boots, bloodstained jerseys, dirty rugby balls, trophies, and ribbons are among the many offerings you’ll find within the shrine. A guest book lies open on the altar, its pages full of messages honoring lost rugby players, pleading for a particular team victory, or praying for loved ones to recover from rugby-induced injuries. The chapel began acquiring so much rugby garb a second building had to be erected to house the complete collection.

The chapel also has its own prayer, a part of which roughly translates to, “Stand beside us to give us strength and desire in our quest for victory. But also stand beside us in the terrible scrum of existence until we emerge victorious in the great game of life.” 

Know Before You Go

The only way to reach this remote chapel is by car.