The chapel at Pondfarm was built in 1946, just after the 2nd World War. This is its history:
During the 2nd World War, the farmer at that time, Arsène Marant, had to take refuge and, together with his sister and his neighbours, made use of the old WW1 German hospital bunker (to the right of Pondfarm). There they sat, waiting and praying together; a unit of French Cavalry was also present at the farm for a while. After the French left on 12th May 1940, Arsène found a carved wooden Christ figure, so he decided to build a little chapel in which he placed the Christ figure together with a handwritten letter of dedication. To keep it safe, the Christ figure now resides inside our house.
Inside the chapel one can see the handpainted texts ‘PEACE IN OUR FAMILIES’ and ‘PEACE AMONGST THE PEOPLES’ (meaning all peoples of the world) and ‘E.M. 1940’. After the 2nd World War, many residents of St. Julian often visited the chapel to say their prayers. It was said that people who lived as far as 2km. away from the chapel could hear the sound of the praying people. The chapel is quite near the road leading to the church in St. Julian.
Besides the figurine of Our Lady in the chapel, there is a letter written by Arsène Marant in 1944, describing and dedicating his valuable find. At some point the letter was damaged by vandals, but the remaining pieces were put back together by the Butaye family. The text reads:
"On 12th May 1940, this carved wooden Christ figure was found in the farmyard after the departure of a French Cavalry Unit from the South, who were advancing towards the enemy. The artist who made this impressive Christ figure was probably part of this group. May the sight of this figure encourage the faithful to the greater honour and glory of our Saviour. Beloved be Jesus Christ."
“If I survive the war, I will build a chapel and hang the Christ figure there together with a written text”.
Because of this little chapel, the farm, in local Flemish, was called ‘The Chapel Farm' (De Kapelhoeve), and in view of its poor condition, we partially restored it in June 2009.
At some stage we hope to receive a grant so that we can fully restore it. The same hope we have for the many 'field chapels' in this region. They are part of an ancient tradition of this ‘Westhoek’ (i.e. the Western Corner of Flanders).
The chapel was built in 1946. It is dedicated to 'Our Lady Of Peace' as the inscription on the front says. On the inside, the banderols “Peace in our families” and “Peace amongst the Peoples” are painted, being two specific dedication prayers.
On the back of the Christ figure is carved “E.M 1940”.
E.M. may be the initials of the artist or of the owner, or else could it stand for the French words “Etat Major” (headquarters) or “Escadre Motorisé” (light armoured vehicles).
(English translation Frank Mahieu and Roger Joye)