A handmade wooden staircase spirals around the trunk of the oldest tree in france, an oak known as the Chêne Chapelle or ‘Chapel Oak.’ Located in the small farming village of Allouville-Bellefosse, the tree has lived through some of the nation’s most notable historic events, from the reign of Louis XIV to Napoleon, and now it’s a charming fairy tale-like chapel.
Estimated to be around 1,000 years old, the oak has a hollowed-out trunk hosting two small worship spaces, Notre Dame de la Paix and the Chambre de l’Ermite. The chapels came about when the roughly 500-year-old tree was struck by lightning in the 1600s, burning through the center.
A local abbot took advantage of the newly hollowed-out space inside to build a shrine to the Virgin Mary, which led to additional worship space being added on later.
Sadly, the trunk of the tree has died, and it’s now being held up by poles, with wooden shingles hiding the areas where the bark is heavily damaged. But once a year, on August 15th, Chêne Chapelle is the site of a a pilgrimage known as the Assumption of Mary. Public domain images by Ji-Elle and le ghola (1, 2) via Wikimedia Commons