PARIS CHURCH : They are opened to anyone, no matter what is your religion. It does not matter if you are not a believer. You are perfectly allow to come and see those holy places. Obviously, you do not visit a church like you visit a museum. There are certain rules you must respect : be silent and quiet, at least do not take pictures with a flash, do not touch paintings and sculptures, do not disturb mass or people in prayers. Entrance is free of charge but you are welcome to make a donation and light a candle.
Major Historical Facts, kings and Paris church
- Sainte Patronne of Paris Sainte Geneviève
Geneviève (around 420 – 500) is a French saint. For more than 1,500 years, Paris has been under the protection of Saint Geneviève who, through her prayers and her courage, saved the capital from famine and destruction many times.
In 451, the Huns threatened Paris. Geneviève persuaded the panicked Parisians that the Barbarians would not attack the city and it was useless to flee. Indeed, Paris is spared. Then, the Franks came to besiege Paris. Geneviève negotiated with the Franks that the city should not be invaded. It also save Christianity while the Western Roman Empire was doomed to disappear and the barbarian people had embraced Arianism.
The siege by the Franks of Paris lasted 10 years, during which Geneviève forced the blockade on the Seine and supplied the Parisian people with wheat. After the victory of Clovis, the last representative of Roman power in Gaul, she allied with the new king and asked him to convert to Christianity. After his baptism, he reconciled the Franks and Gallo-Roman people.
Paris became the capital of his kingdom in 508. Parisians took the habit, whenever a flood, war or epidemic threatened them, to walk the shrine of the saint. A whole protocol governed this ceremony. Relics found in the crypt of the old Sainte-Geneviève church (nowadays the Panthéon) were placed in 1803 in the Paris Church Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church. These relics of the Saint are the last visible in Paris.
- Saint Denis, first Bishop of Paris
Saint Denis was the first bishop of Paris sent by the Pope Saint Clement, successor to the apostle Peter, who was in office from 92 to 101 to evangelize the Gaul (Kingdom of France). The story of Saint Denis is written in many ancient texts. The story of his life and Passion (story of martyrdom) was written throughout the Middle Ages by many biographers, who gradually transformed history into a legend. When Denis arrived in Paris with two disciples, Rustique and Éleuthère, he preached to the inhabitants and converted them to Christianity. At that time, Christians were persecuted by the Roman authorities and Paris, at that time named Lutèce, was under the Roman control. Arrested by the Romans, Denis and his companions declared themselves Christians and were beheaded. To prevent their remains from being thrown into the Seine, a still pagan Roman aristocrat, Catulla, decides to bury them in a field of her property. Later, Christians build a basilica in this place, the foundations of the current Cathedral Basilica of Saint-Denis.
- First Christian King Clovis
The first King of France (and of Europe) being baptized is Clovis (465-511) in the cathedral of Reims, region of Champagne. Married to Clotilde a Catholic princess, he was baptized by the Bishop of Reims, future Saint Rémi, on Christmas Day between 496 and 498. Therefore, the King must reign in the name of God. He chose Paris as the capital of his French Kingdom. Clovis established the bases of the Monarchy. Clovis is the first Christian King in the world. It is later considered to be one of the most important events in the history of the French monarchy and even of the Catholic Church. This baptism in the Cathedral of Reims remained a significant event : from Henri I all the kings of France, except Louis VI, Henri IV and Louis XVIII, are thereafter crowned in the cathedral of Reims until the king Charles X, in 1825.
- The Royal France and the Church in the Middle Ages
From 987 to 1328, the Kingdom of France was ruled by the dynasty of the Capetian kings with the support of the Church. During 341 years of the Capetians reign with 14 Kings, the kingdom of France went through crusades, land and religious wars to assert their power and authority accross Europe and the East.
The East–West Schism of 1054, was the break of communion between what are now the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Schism was the culmination of theological and political differences between the Christian East and West.
William the Conqueror (Guillaume le Conquérant in French 1027-1087), was king of England from 1066 until his death in 1087 and duke of Normandy from 1035 until his death. After the death of King Edward, he took advantage of a succession crisis to seize the crown of England after his victory at the Hastings Battle in 1066. This conquest made him the one of the most powerful monarchs in Western Europe.
On April 20, 1233, Pope Gregory IX entrusted to an exceptional court called Inquisitio hereticae pravitatis the task of unmasking and condemning, throughout the kingdom of France, heretics and insincere Catholics, by enforcing penalties for people who did not comply with the dogma. Many emperors and kings assimilated the rejection of the official faith to a crime of lese majesty and do not hesitate to condemn the culprits to the confiscation of their goods, to the prison even to the death. An estimation of 3,000 death sentences according records were executed during its 5 centuries of existence through Europe (Some talks about 40 million…). Along with the inquisition, “witch hunting” was a phenomenon more present in Protestant countries such as Germany, England, Danemark, and less in Catholic countries such as Italy and Spain. The last women executed for witchcraft in Europe is Anna Göldin, sentenced in 1782 in the Protestant canton of Glarus in Switzerland. Historians estimate between 40,000 and 100,000 victims of witch hunting.
The Middle Ages is a period in the history of Europe, extending from the 5th century to the 15th century, which begins with the decline of the Western Roman Empire and ends with the Renaissance and the Great Discoveries. Discover the Museum of Cluny, our National Museum of the Middle Ages in the Latin Quarter, close to Saint Germain.
Saint Thomas d’Aquin
- Saint Thomas d’Aquin
In 1245, Saint Thomas d’Aquin left Italy, clerical and aristocratic privileges to study & teach at the Sorbonne University in Paris. The Sainte Ursule de la Sorbonne chapel is decorated in its external front with four niches each comprising a statue. In the upper left, there is Saint Thomas Aquin Statue.
Founded in 1257 by Robert de Sorbon under King Saint Louis, The Sorbonne is an edifice of the former University of Paris. Today, it houses several high education and research institutions. During the 16th century, the Sorbonne became involved with the struggle between Catholics and Protestants. At that time, Kings, Popes would go to study at the University of Paris for its new ideas, visionary leadership and Excellence.
Saint Thomas became and is an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. Thomas Aquinas proposed, in the 13th century, a theological work on an attempt to synthesize reason and faith, especially when he tries to reconcile Christian thought and the realistic philosophy of Aristotle . He distinguishes truths accessible to a single reason, from those of faith, defined as an unconditional adherence to the Word of God. He qualifies philosophy as a servant of theology (philosophia ancilla theologiæ) in order to express how the two disciplines participate in a “subordinate” way in the search for the knowledge of the truth, the path to bliss.
- King Saint Louis
Louis IX dit Saint Louis – King of France of the Capetian dynasty, reigned from 1226 to 1270. Saint Louis was the first to give protection to the Eastern Christians against the Ottoman empire. In 1248, he undertook the 7th crusade to save the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem. During these sumptuous years for the country, he also made himself the protector of justice, of peace and of Christianity, while consolidating his royal power.
The main structure of the new Notre Dame cathedral was completed in 1245 under his reign. The relics of Christ crucifixion, the crown of thorns, a piece of the cross and a nail, are brought by Saint Louis from Jerusalem in 1239.
On August 19, 1239, the relics arrived in procession in Paris. The king abandoned his royal adornment, put on a simple tunic and, barefoot, wore the crown of thorns to Notre-Dame de Paris. To preserve these relics, he built a monumental reliquary, the Paris church Sainte-Chapelle.
The Sainte Chapelle is well-known for its stunning stained glass. Arranged across 15 windows, each 15 metres high (50 foot), the stained glass panes depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments recounting the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris. Saint Louis also had the Sorbonne built in 1257. Louis IX called Saint Louis was the only canonized king of France.
- Saint Ignace de Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1556) in Rome, was a Basque-Spanish priest and theologian, founder and first Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He assumed considerable tasks in the reaction of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th and 17th centuries, facing the Protestant reform.
On August 15, 1534, at the end of the mass celebrated in Montmartre in the crypt of the Saint Denis martyrium, he pronounced with 6 other priests the 2 vows of poverty and chastity. It was the first act of an apostolic project giving birth of few years later the Society of Jesus, approved by Pope Paul III in 1540.
Our pope Francis (François in French) is the first pope from the ranks of the Society of Jesus, the first non-European pope since the Syrian pope Gregory III in the 8th century as well as the first from the American continent. He is also the first pope to take the name of Francis, a name chosen in memory of Saint Francis of Assisi (1181 or 1182 -1226). The Catholic Paris church of Saint-François-d’Assise is located rue de Mouzaïa in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis of Assisi is regarded as the precursor of inter-religious dialogue.
- Religious wars and the massacre de la Saint Barthélemy
In France, wars of Religion are called a series of 8 conflicts (civil wars, wars of religion and military operations) which ravaged the kingdom of France in the second half of the 16th century and where Catholics and Protestants (also called Huguenots ) opposed.
The spiritual Protestant was Jean Calvin, French theologian, pastor and reformer. The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre (French: Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy), unleashed on the night of August 24, 1572 in Paris, is the culmination of the political and religious crisis which has opposed Catholic elites to Protestant elites for ten years.
Historians have long remained divided on the exact role of the crown, and the historical tradition made King Charles IX 4th king of the Valois-Angoulême family and his mother, Catherine de Medici, the main culprits of the massacre. In Paris, the executions of thousands of Protestants by Catholics take place over several days in Paris, signal given from the Paris church Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, a Paris church near by the Louvre.
- The Edit de Nantes by King Henri IV
Another major event is the Edit de Nantes by King Henri IV. To access the throne, Henri de Navarre Protestant Chief at that time, had to convert to Catholicism. On July 25, 1593 Henri de Navarre abjured Protestantism for the last time in Basilica of Saint-Denis, near Paris. The basilica became a place of pilgrimage and the burial place of the French Kings with nearly every king from the 10th to the 18th centuries being buried there. This condition fulfilled, he ends up imposing himself as king of France under the name of Henri IV, installing a new dynasty, that of Bourbons. Thanks to the Edit de Nantes, Henri IV ended decades of civil war, pitting Catholics against Protestants. It is undoubtedly the most important act of his reign.
- The Edit de Nantes revocation by King Louis XIV
Louis XIV, known as “Louis the Great” or “the Sun King”, (1638-1715) is a king of France. His reign of 72 years is one of the longest in the history of Europe and the longest in the history of France. From 1682, Louis XIV ruled his kingdom from the vast Palace of Versailles.
On October 18, 1685, Louis XIV, the Sun King, the 44th king of Navarre and the third king of France from the Bourbon dynasty, signs the Edict of Fontainebleau. This act, which revokes the Edict of Nantes signed on April 13, 1598 by Henri IV, his grandfather, prohibits the existence of the Protestant cult in France. The Sun King, eager for absolutism and centralization, tried to stifle the practice of Protestant worship. After “Moderate Politics”, it will authorize persecution, causing a demographic hemorrhage, disastrous for the country’s economy and which will weaken the kingdom.
In Versailles, the Royal Chapel was completed at the end of the reign of Louis XIV in 1710. Dedicated to Saint Louis, patron saint of the King, the royal Chapel echoes the Sainte-Chapelle Paris church built under Saint Louis king.
- The French Revolution and the Church
The French Revolution from 1789 caused a massive shift of power from the Roman Catholic Church to the State. Under the monarchy, the Church had been the largest single landowner in the country. In addition, the Church was exempt from paying taxes to the government, while it levied a tax often collected in the form of crops on the people.
The French Revolution brought the Republic model, in which power is exercised by elected persons. Slavery by royalty and clergy on the people (named the serf) and their privileges have been dismantled. The prohibition of trafficking only intervened in 1815 and especially in 1817 under Louis XVIII. Slavery was definitively abolished in Paris, in the Council of Government, by the decree of Victor Schœlcher who decided the abolition of slavery in France and in its colonies, on April 27, 1848. It also decriminalized homosexual relations as early as 1791.
During the Revolution’s Reign of Terror, the project of de-Christianisation started, including the imprisonment and massacre of priests, religious, royalists or not royalists and destruction of churches and religious images throughout France. The Picpus cemetery is one of 2 private cemeteries of Paris, with lots of graves from the French Aristocratic families, including the grave of Lafayette. It was dug in June 1794 in the garden of a convent from which the nuns, canonesses of Saint Augustine, were driven out 2 years earlier, during the French Revolution. It is one of the 4 cemeteries in Paris to have received bodies during the Revolution . In 6 weeks, the guillotine killed more than 1,306 people. Overall, several tens of thousands are guillotined, shot or drowned. The victims were religious people, royalists, like Queen Marie-Antoinette, as well as Republicans like Danton, Camille Desmoulins.
In fact, repression even atrocities in particular in Vendée, Lyon, in the North and South of France, were committed. We have long considered that the Terror ended on 9 thermidor year II (July 27, 1794) with the fall of Robespierre. Robespierre is undoubtedly the most controversial character of the French Revolution.
Then, the coup d’état (putsch) of 18 Brumaire (on November 9, 1799) took place with the following operations : Napoléon Bonaparte will be commander in Chief of the Army in Paris and in the assemblies. Napoleon was crowned Emperor, first Emperor of France, on December 2, 1804 in Notre Dame Cathedral. You have an amazing painting about it at the Louvre. Beginning of the Concordat in 1801, Napoléon ended the de-Christianisation and established the rules for a relationship between the Catholic Church and the French State that lasted until the separation of Church and State on 11 December 1905. Discover the French Revolution of 1789 with the Museum Carnavalet in the Marais district.
- Freedom of religion by Napoléon
In 1802, with the Concordat signed with Pope Pius VII, the First Consul of the French Republic Napoléon Bonaparte restored freedom of worship because he saw that religion was necessary for the balance of people. Napoléon Bonaparte declared on August 16, 1800:
“My policy is to govern men. This is, I believe, the way to recognize the sovereignty of the people. It was by making myself Catholic that I won the war in Vendée, by making myself Muslim that I established myself in Egypt, by making myself ultramontane that I won minds in Italy. If I ruled a Jewish people, I would restore the Temple of Solomon. “
La Madeleine Paris church, dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene is a Roman Catholic church in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. The Madeleine Paris Church was supposed to be transformed into a temple to the glory of Napoléons army but Napoléon himself gave it back to the glory of God in 1813.
La Madeleine church
- The Republic and the Church
The first Republic in 1792
The République in France is the form of government in force for the first time in 1792 right after Bastille Day, the French Revolution of 1789 then interrupted from 1804 to 1848 with Napoléon Bonaparte becoming Emperor and the coming back of the constitutional monarchy.
The Second Republic interrupted from 1852 to 1870 with Napoléon III
Second republic then interrupted from 1852 to 1870 with Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, Napoléon III (nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte) second empire. Not respecting his promises to Christians, in 1860, the sultan exercised bloody repression against the Lebanese Maronites, Eastern Christians. For Napoléon III, it was a provocation. An expeditionary force embarked for the current country Lebanon. A year later in 1861, a special status is obtained from Istanbul, notably with the designation of a Christian governor for the “autonomous province of Mount Lebanon”.
The Communard movement in 1870
The Commune of Paris finds its source in a republican impulse referring to the First Republic as well as the first months of the Second Republic. One of Napoleon III’s favorite high-ranking officials, Baron Haussmann, notes that more than half of Parisians live in “poverty bordering on indigence”, even though they work eleven hours a day. In July 1870, the Second Empire began an ill-prepared war against Prussia, which quickly led to defeat. On September 4, 1870, following a day of riots in Paris, the Empire was overthrown.
The communard movement was born following an uprising of Parisians on March 18, 1871. It is dominated by the extreme left where several groups are represented: centralizing Jacobins, internationalist Marxists, independent Blanquists and anarchists.
The Communards want a federalist, democratic and social republic with absolute autonomy for the communes of France, as well as a separation of Church and State. However, from Versailles, the propaganda of Adolphe Thiers provoked the rejection of the movement in the countryside.
In the final battle of Bloody Week on May 28, 1871, hundreds of Communards were killed in action. At the same time, the Paris Commune rose up, provoked bloody religious persecution and used the clergy as bargaining chips. But these hostages represent nothing in the eyes of the Versailles power, as anticlerical as the Communards… The Church, considered compromised with the bourgeoisie and the Second Empire, is a designated victim. Soon, three hundred ecclesiastics were crammed into Parisian prisons, and a few dozen nuns, starting with the Dominican teachers from the Saint-Albert school in Arcueil and the Dames Blanches from Picpus. They seize the property of the clergy, prohibit denominational education, close and confiscate Parisian sanctuaries, transformed according to needs, into political clubs, workshops or prisons. Priests, religious, including the Archbishop of Paris, Georges Darboy, and a few lay people, paid with their lives, often in atrocious conditions, for the active hatred of a minority against Catholicism.
Around 20,000 communards were summarily executed by the Versaillese. Out of 36,000 communards arrested, 4,500 were imprisoned, 7,500 were deported (mainly to New Caledonia) and 10,000 convictions were pronounced, including 93 to capital punishment, 23 of which were carried out.
The Third and the Fourth Republic
The law concerning the separation of the Church and the State is a law adopted on December 9, 1905 during the Third republic, on the initiative of the republican-socialist deputy Aristide Briand, who took sides in favor of a laicism without excess.
Finally, the Third republic is interrupted from 1940 to 1944 with the system of Vichy government under the nazis, followed by The Fourth Republic.
The Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is in force in France since October 4, 1958 by Charles de Gaulle, who was elected its first president.
Paris is a Catholic stronghold. In addition, you have more than a hundred houses of worship to discover in every district of Paris, from all religions for all communities. Paris church, experience the Holy humanity in the City of Lights, its history as well.
Paris church reflects our history and culture, sacred art and a moment of holiness in the middle of a big city like Paris. Paris, the City of Light, is not only celebrated for its romantic ambiance and world-class cuisine but also for its magnificent churches that embody its religious and historical heritage. From the grandeur of the Notre-Dame Cathedral to the hidden gems tucked away on picturesque streets, each Paris church tells a story of faith, artistry, and the evolution of architectural styles. Whether you seek spiritual solace, architectural inspiration, or a glimpse into the past, these churches offer a unique perspective on the city’s cultural tapestry.
Paris Church: Iconic Landmarks of Faith
Paris, the enchanting capital of France, is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and architectural marvels. Among the many attractions that captivate visitors from around the world, the churches of Paris stand as timeless testaments to the city’s deep-rooted religious significance and historical significance. In this article, we will embark on a journey through the magnificent Paris churches, exploring their architectural splendor, religious importance, and the stories they hold within their sacred walls.
1. The Notre-Dame Cathedral: A Gothic Marvel
The Notre-Dame Cathedral, with its awe-inspiring Gothic architecture, stands as one of the most iconic landmarks in Paris. This masterpiece took nearly two centuries to complete and is renowned for its intricate stone carvings, towering spires, and breathtaking rose windows. Visitors can marvel at its magnificent interior, ascend to the top for a panoramic view of the city, and appreciate the religious and historical significance that it holds.
2. Sacré-Cœur Basilica: The Sacred Heart of Paris
Perched atop the picturesque Montmartre hill, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica offers a stunning panorama of Paris. This white-domed basilica, constructed in the late 19th century, is a symbol of hope and spiritual devotion. Inside, visitors can admire its grandeur and experience a sense of tranquility in its serene ambiance. A climb up its dome rewards visitors with a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline.
3. Sainte-Chapelle: A Stained Glass Masterpiece
Hidden within the Palais de la Cité, the Sainte-Chapelle boasts an extraordinary display of stained glass windows. Built in the 13th century, this architectural gem was commissioned by King Louis IX to house relics from the Passion of Christ. Step inside, and you’ll be transported into a world of vibrant colors and intricate details as sunlight filters through the stunning stained glass, depicting biblical stories.
4. Saint-Sulpice: A Grand Paris church of Worship
Saint-Sulpice, a monumental church located in the heart of Paris, is known for its impressive façade and magnificent organ. This 17th-century church offers a serene escape from the bustling city, inviting visitors to explore its spacious interior and admire its artistic treasures. As you wander through its chapels and nave, you can appreciate the skill and dedication that went into creating this masterpiece.
5. The Madeleine Paris church: An Architectural Gem
The Madeleine Church, resembling a Greek temple, is a striking sight in the heart of Paris. Initially designed as a temple to honor Napoleon’s army, it was later transformed into a Catholic church. Its grand columns, impressive portico, and elegant interior make it a must-visit destination for architecture enthusiasts and those seeking a moment of reflection amidst its majestic surroundings.
6. Église de la Sainte-Trinité: A Symbol of Harmony
Église de la Sainte-Trinité, nestled in the bustling 9th arrondissement, is a testament to architectural harmony. This neoclassical church, designed by Théodore Ballu, combines elements of Greek and Roman architecture with a touch of French influence. Its stunning rose window, soaring dome, and ornate decorations make it a captivating place of worship and a symbol of unity among different architectural styles.
7. Basilica of Saint-Denis: The Birthplace of Gothic Art
Located just outside the city limits, the Basilica of Saint-Denis is considered the birthplace of Gothic art. This medieval masterpiece, the final resting place of French monarchs, showcases the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. Its intricate stained glass windows, magnificent tombs, and rich historical significance make it a fascinating destination for history buffs and architecture aficionados.
8. Saint-Eustache Church: A Blend of Styles
Saint-Eustache Church, situated in the vibrant Les Halles district, is a harmonious blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles. Its impressive façade, towering nave, and grand organ contribute to its architectural allure. The church’s musical heritage is also noteworthy, as it hosts regular concerts and performances, enchanting visitors with the power of music within its sacred walls.
9. La Trinité Church: A Neo-Baroque Treasure
La Trinité Church, an exquisite neo-baroque masterpiece, stands majestically in the 9th arrondissement. Designed by renowned architect Théodore Ballu, this church is characterized by its ornate decorations, grand organ, and stunning interior. Visitors can bask in the beauty of its detailed craftsmanship and immerse themselves in the spiritual atmosphere it provides.
10. Saint-Germain-des-Prés: A Historic Haven
Saint-Germain-des-Prés, located in the charming Left Bank neighborhood, is one of the oldest churches in Paris. Its Romanesque architecture, serene courtyard, and rich history make it a must-visit for those seeking a tranquil retreat in the heart of the city. Explore its medieval chapels, stroll through its charming surroundings, and feel the centuries of history come alive.
11. Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre Paris church: A Hidden Gem
Nestled on the Left Bank of the Seine, Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre is a hidden gem that often goes unnoticed amidst the grandeur of its neighboring churches. Dating back to the 13th century, this church combines Romanesque and Gothic elements, offering a unique architectural experience. Its peaceful ambiance and quaint charm make it a favorite spot for contemplation and reflection.
12. Saint-Etienne-du-Mont Paris church: A Shrine of Knowledge
Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, located near the Panthéon, is a captivating blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles. This historic church is known for its stunning rood screen, magnificent stained glass windows, and the final resting place of philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal. Explore its intricacies, admire its artistic details, and delve into the intersection of faith and knowledge.
13. The American Church in Paris: A Transatlantic Connection
The American Church in Paris, founded in the early 19th century, serves as a spiritual haven for the English-speaking community in the city. Its neo-Gothic architecture, reminiscent of American collegiate chapels, welcomes visitors from all walks of life. Attend a service, participate in community events, and experience the unique blend of cultures that this church represents.
14. Saint-Gervais Paris church: A Journey through Time
Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais, located in the historic Marais district, invites visitors on a journey through centuries of history. This church showcases a combination of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, creating a visually stunning experience. Discover its rich past, admire its majestic organ, and immerse yourself in the ambiance of this hidden gem.