On the afternoon of 1 September 2018, St Peter’s, the English Church in Château-d’Oex, was packed with friends and well-wishers. They had come to listen to a special concert in the church featuring Sara Marques and Jystyna Jarzab.
This Concert d’Amitié was a celebration of an important milestone in the restoration of the Anglican church, originally built in 1899. The concert was also an occasion to pay tribute to Hans Kilchenmann, who worked tirelessly in the previous 18 months to raise donations for the stained glass windows. Sadly Hans passed away in March 2018 and did not see the completion of the project.
The restoration of St Peter’s has been long overdue. Crumbling lead in the stained glass windows led to cracked panes; the electrical wiring originally installed in the 1930s was no longer legal, the lighting was poor and the heating unreliable.
The first step was to remove all the windows from the nave – 11 in all – for restoration by Isabelle Giovanella in Saanen. Plastic sheeting covered the gaping holes where the windows had been removed and scaffolding was erected inside the church. Workmen tackled the numerous jobs: installation of a modern electrical system, fitting new heating elements under the pews and radiators on the walls, mounting an energy-efficient LED lighting system throughout and repainting the entire inside of the church. A complete aisle of pews was also removed to open up space on the left of the church. The entrance hall was renovated with the addition of new dividing doors featuring beautiful hand-engraved glass by the English artist Philip Lawson Johnston. Throughout this time, weekly services continued amidst the dust and rubble of the building site. Any inconvenience has been more than compensated by the light, warmth and space that now fills the church.
The renovation has coincided with the centenary of the end of WWI – a war that had an impact on the life of the church. Between 1916 and 1918 some 500 British soldiers, prisoners of war, were interned in Château-d’Oex, many of whom attended the weekly services. To meet the needs of this enlarged congregation The Times of London in 1916 raised money for an organ in the church. This too has been restored.
Since St Peter’s is completely self-funded, the restoration was only possible thanks to many donors who made generous contributions. Funds have also been raised for the three beautiful chancel windows which will be restored in 2019 or 2020.
December will be an opportunity for many visitors and second homers to visit St Peter’s and see the renovation in person. For the Christmas season, the church has organised a comprehensive programme of services and events both in Château-d’Oex and Gstaad, to which all are welcome.