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Stéphane Frère posed outside the Colosseum and other sites in Rome (The Tablet/Stéphane Frère)

A needy but determined mayor has pedalled 750km by bicycle from Nice to Rome to raise funds to renovate the dilapidated 12th-century church in his village in northern France. Source: The Tablet.

Stéphane Frère made the journey after learning the state – which owns all churches opened before 1905 – would pay 90 per cent of the cost of a new roof and other long-overdue renovations for St Martin’s Church in Bonnesvalyn. The village would need to pay the remaining 10 per cent.

Mr Frère has been mayor of the tiny village since 2020 and wants to repair the Romanesque building to hold liturgies and concerts. But with only 216 inhabitants, the village could not afford its €70,000 ($A117,000) share of the costs.

So Mr Frère, a fit 48-year-old secondary school teacher and long-time cycling fan, set off on bike for Rome to publicise his budget problems and hopefully raise the needed funds. 

He started in Nice, near the Italian border, because pedalling down through France would have taken too long. When a supporter heard about the project, he offered him a bicycle for free.

Mr Frère kept Bonnesvalyn informed through its Facebook page, posting reports of him riding down cobbled roads, visiting pristine beaches and saying grazie to Italians who gave him small bills along the way. 

Arriving on July 20 , he filmed visits to Roman basilicas and posed with his bike at the Colosseum in a toga and laurel wreath and in front of the Pantheon in cycling togs. 

Mr Frère’s journey was followed by local news outlets and he collected €2500 ($4100) for his 10-day journey under the hot sun.

He promised to continue his search for the funds. Since he began his journey, several donation pledges from local businesses and individuals have come in. 


French mayor cycles to Rome to save dilapidated church (By Tom Heneghan, The Tablet)