On our way back down through Normandy last week we diverted into the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise as on the way north we were intrigued by the sign to the village showing a parachute attached to the church roof.
On entering the town square we noticed what appeared to be a large piece of plastic flapping in the breeze on the church spire.On closer inspection we realised it was actually supposed to be a parachute with a dummy paratrooper dangling from it.
In the carpark there are information boards offering an explanation.They tell the story of paratrooper John Steele of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, whose parachute was caught on the church spire early in the morning of June 6, 1944 when the paratroopers were dropped over Sainte-Mère-Église. Some ended up tangled to trees but unfortunately John spent two hours dangling from the church spire pretending to be dead to avoid being shot by the occupying Germans. He was eventually cut down and captured by the Germans but later managed to escape and rejoin his comrades. He was immortalized (?) in the 1962 film 'The Longest Day' by Red Button.
Inside, the church has a rather flamboyant centre altar and two side chapels
Two of the stained glass windows of the church are dedicated to the wartime events, one shows the Virgin Mary surrounded by paratroopers and the other shows the paratroopers patron saint, St. Michael.
Really not sure about the dummy hanging from the church (bit tacky) or indeed the wartime painted reminders on the windows of the cafe we stopped for a coffee in but understand the significance (lest we forget) just feels somewhat out of place.
There is a more modern museum set out behind the church, we didn't visit it but you can see more on it here