In the village of Choranche, our church is humble but ancient. It was one of two churches in the commune of Choranche, mentioned for the first time in a financial assessment [pouillé] carried out by the diocese of Grenoble in 1104. In that document, the village church was referred to in Latin as ecclesia Beata Mariæ de Chauranchis : the church of Saint Mary of Choranche.
The stone structure that we see today has resulted, no doubt, from numerous modifications to the primitive church over the centuries. The square church bell-tower, of a distinctive Dauphiné style, is surely quite ancient. Its squat red-tiled spire is surrounded at the base by four short stone pillars, standing like sentinels at the points of the compass. Now, you have to walk around to the other side of the church to discover that this red spire of the tiny church of Saint Mary of Choranche has an unexpected feature that maybe makes it unique among all the countless village churches of France.
As you see, the spire of our ancient church has a square skylight, of the modern velux variety, to let in the light of the Holy Spirit. Tineke tells me that the decision to install this roof window resulted from a municipal vote that was carried out a couple of decades ago, when the mayor of Choranche was Jean-Louis Salazard. But nobody, today, seems to be able to throw light upon the precise technical purpose of this velux. As far as we know, the spire has never been the abode of a dwarf Quasimodo. So, we have no idea why the municipality decided, once upon a time, that light was needed in this remote extremity of the ancient church. Let's call it a Christian mystery.
God said: "Let there be light."
And there was skylight.