Christian Tour in Paris

Paris church : There are more than a hundred of churches in Paris, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox… Come and see our beautiful, discreet, old, modern, huge and famous churches. Churches, basilica, cathedral, they tell us spirituality and history. They bring us sacred masterpieces within amazing architecture. They also tell us a lot about Christian kings of France.

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.

Come and see our beautiful churches, through spirituality, history, sacred arts, architecture with a tailor-made private tour guide. Paris is a Catholic bastion and Catholicism is the main religion in France. However, the protestants and the orthodox of France are numerous. Just tell us about your aspirations. You may want to discover sacred places from other religions as well.

Paris Church and Ecumenism

Ecumenism is an interfaith movement which tends to promote common actions among the various currents of Christianity, despite their doctrinal differences, with the objective of “Christian unity”.

Developing from the end of the nineteenth century, ecumenism takes concrete form today through the existence of various agreements, numerous forums for dialogue, but also through a certain number of concrete achievements, such as undertakings to jointly translate documents and the week of common prayer for Christian unity every year in January.

Among the pioneers of ecumenism :

  • Greek Orthodox Patriarch Germain V of Constantinople
  • Anglican American bishop Charles Brent
  • Dutch reformed pastor Willem Visser ‘t Hooft
  • French Catholic cardinal Yves Congar
  • Swedish Lutheran archbishop Nathan Söderblom
  • American layman John Mott

Both Swedish Lutheran archbishop Nathan Söderblom and American layman John Mott received the Nobel Peace Prize for this activity.

Ask for a a tailor-made private tour guide on Christian Faith

A church is a place for Christian worship services, celebrations and for Christian religious activities, Bible study, social, humanitarian and cultural activities. In traditional Christian architecture, a church interior is often structured in the shape of a Christian cross. The Christian cross, with or without a figure of Christ included, is the main religious symbol of Christianity. The fact of drawing a cross on the forehead is a sign of protection and a sign of belonging to the Christian community. Initially traced on the forehead with the thumb, this gesture has evolved over time. For Catholics, the gesture consists of successively touching with the right hand fingers tips first the forehead, second the heart, third left shoulder and fourth the right shoulder.

Paris Church and inter religious dialogue

Nostra Ætate is the declaration of the Second Vatican Council on the relations of the Catholic Church with non-Christian religions (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions). During the third session of the council, it was approved by 2,221 votes against 88. It was immediately promulgated, on October 28, 1965, by Pope Paul VI. “Nostra Ætate” are the first words of the Latin text; they mean “in our time”.

Nostra Aetate “declaration on the Church and the religions of the world” continues to engage the Church. The “4 forms of dialogue” are :

  • The dialogue of life, where people strive to live in a spirit of good neighborliness, sharing their joys and sorrows
  • The dialogue of works, where there is collaboration for the integral development of believers seeking God
  • The dialogue of theological exchanges, to understand heritages and to appreciate one another spiritual values
  • The dialogue of religious experience, where people rooted in their own religious traditions share their spiritual riches

Nostra Ætate is the shortest document of Vatican II: it is also perhaps the most revolutionary in relation to the doctrine hitherto in force in the Catholic Church. Founder of contemporary Catholic interreligious dialogue, it renews the relationships that the Church establishes with other religions.

Ask for a a tailor-made private tour guide on Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or other religions

Place of worship

The Church is a community called in the name of Christ. As God people, the people of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, the Church is the strength of God Spirit, source of the past, present and future. It is like a Kingdom, a communion between men and God which is the work of the Holy Spirit. By the presence within the Church of the risen Christ, it is a holy place. However, it remains, despite of everything, by its members a human and fragile reality. This Church, willed by Christ, is founded on the 12 apostles, which is why it is called apostolic. The Church takes the form of small communities in Syria, around the year 43. The disciples were given the name “Christians” (Greek word, coming from Christ).

  • Paris Church

The church consists of a building dedicated to prayer and to the worship practices of Christians such as the mass said in a church by the priest, in Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Which Parisian church could you visit? The oldest? The most liberal or traditionalist? The Paris church could be Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox. Among the most famous churches, Saint Eustache Paris church is one of them. Stamped with great names such as Louis XIV who in 1649, made his first communion, this Catholic church exists since the 16th century and is one of the largest churches of Paris with Saint Sulpice Paris church. Saint Sulpice is only slightly smaller than Notre-Dame cathedral and thus the largest Paris church. Another large Paris church is Notre Dame de la Croix in the 20th district next to Père Lachaise cemetery where famous people are buried, such as Edith Piaf, Colette, Maria Callas, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrisson… In the Père Lachaise, you also have one of the most amazing couples of the Catholics, Héloïse and Abélard, buried together. Discover the Oratoire du Louvre, a major Protestant church made available to Protestants by Napoleon in 1811 and the surprising little Russian church Saint-Serge de Radonège, attached to the Orthodox Archbishopric of Russian Churches tradition in Western Europe, exarchate of the ecumenical patriarchate of Constantinople.

Among more than 160 churches, every single church of Paris has its very own story, architecture, arts, and Saints. They are very active regarding mass services ( twice a day at least) and celebrations, for some of them in English, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Malagasy and Tagal.

  • Basilica

In the Roman Catholic Church, a basilica is a church enjoying a privilege. This term is an honorary title given by the Pope to a church where many faithful come especially on pilgrimage to pray to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary or even the relics of a particularly venerated saint. By this honorary distinction, the basilicas take precedence over all the other churches, with the exception of the cathedral of their diocese.

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The Basilica of the Sacred Heart

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the emblematic monument of Montmartre hill. The inspiration for Sacré-Cœur’s design originated on 4 September 1870, the day of the proclamation of the Third Republic, with a speech by Bishop Fournier attributing the defeat of French troops during the Franco-Prussian War to a divine punishment after “a century of moral decline” since the French Revolution.

  • Cathedral

A cathedral was originally a church where the seat of the bishop in charge of a diocese is located. It is a symbol of his authority and of his apostolic mission. The cathedral is in use in the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church… The building itself, by its physical presence, symbolises both the glory of God and of the church. A cathedral, its bishop and dignitaries have traditional religious functions, but also are closely associated with the civil and communal life of the city.

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The Cathedral of Notre Dame

The cathedral of Notre Dame was begun in 1160 thanks to the Bishop Maurice de Sully on the Île de la Cité where used to be a temple dedicated to Jupiter under Tibère emperor, descendants of Ponce Pilate and Jesus. L’ Île de la Cité is a “mother cell” of Paris. The cathedral is completed between 1250 and 1270 under King Saint Louis, though it was modified and completed frequently in the following centuries. The cathedral is known to be one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture. Notre-Dame contains the cathedra of the Archbishop of Paris, currently Michel Aupetit. 14 million people visit Notre-Dame yearly, which makes it the most visited monument in Europe. Notre Dame is more than a monument, it is a Catholic Holy place.

You can make a donation for Notre Dame Cathedral renovation with Notre-Dame de Paris site and friends of Notre Dame de Paris site for restoration and preservation. This fund is open to you regardless of your nationality.

Major Historical Facts, kings and Paris church

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Sainte Geneviève

  • 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 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 and Saint Germain.

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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 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 current pope 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. He 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 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.

  • 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 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 (reopening after renovation in 2020)

  • 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 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.

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La Madeleine church

  • The Republic and the Church

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; 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 is 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 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 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.

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