Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Paris: Churches

I like churches, not the modern ones, the old ones, the Gothic ones, the medieval ones. Even when I wasn't a practicing Christian, I liked churches. There's several reason for my love of churches -- the history, the architecture, the beauty, and a sense of peace that you don't get with modern versions.

While in Paris, I visited numerous churches besides the famous Notre Dame. The Pantheon. Église Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois. Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Saint-Etienne-du-Mont. St Sulpice. I also took several pictures of random churches around town, but I don't have access to those at the moment.

First up, the Pantheon. Originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve to house her remains, it is now a secular building that houses the remains of famous French citizens. The neoclassical building is breathtaking and the interior more so -- its filled with elaborate paintings and architectural elements.

The Pantheon.

Église Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois. Located behind the Louvre, this church was the parish of the kings of France when the Louvre was still the royal residence. Originally built in the 7th century, its been rebuilt numerous times and is now a mixture of Roman, Gothic and Renaissance styles.

Interesting historical fact: The Wars of Religion took place between 1562 and 1598. During this time, there was civil as well as military fighting between the Catholics and the Huguenots who were Protestant. On the night of August 23, 1572, the bell of St Germain l'Auxerrois rang and thousands of Huguenots who were visiting for a royal wedding were killed in what would come to be known as the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre. The wedding was between Margaret, the king's sister, and the Protestant Henry II of Navarre who would become Henry IV of France.

Église Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois. I couldn't get a good picture of the entire edifice so I settled for taking one of the doorway. My memory of the church is mainly one of peace: I'd been walking around the city, in the summer, and was quite warm. I entered the church and it was cool and dim, perfect for a tired tourist to sit down and take a break.

The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is located in Montmartre, on the butte monmartre, the highest point in the city. We chose to visit one evening in Paris because Sacre Coeur is one of the few sites open after 6 pm. When we went, the funicular wasn't working so we had to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top. Built in the late 1800s, the church combines Romano-Byzantine architecture with nationalist themes.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica. The long climb was well worth the view of the city. And the beauty of the church.

Saint-Etienne-du-Mont. This is one of my favorites from all the churches I've visited. Near the Pantheon, it contains the remains of St Genevieve, patron saint of Paris. The church has a long timeline of construction: in the 6th century, the first chapel was formed from the crypt of St Genevieve Abbey In the 13th century, a separate church built on the north side of chapel. In 1491, the bell tower was built and in 1537, the chancel. The gallery came in 1545 and the vaults of the nave and transept followed in 1580. In 1624 the bell tower was raised the the original abbey church was demolished in 1801.


St Genevieve's reliquary.

The interior of the church and the reason I think Saint-Etienne-du-Mont is one of the prettiest churches I've ever seen -- I love the double spiral staircases with the ornate stone carvings.

And finally, Eglise Saint-Sulpice. The church is the second largest in the city, behind Notre Dame. The church contains one of the world's finest and most famous organs. It also contains a gnomon. A meridian line of brass is inlaid across the floor and ascends an eleven metre high white marble obelisk that has a sphere surmounted by a cross at its peak. It was requested by the priest at the time to help him determine the equinoxes and thus when Easter fell. The obelisk is dated 1743.

The interior of St Sulpice.

My feet on the brass meridian line also known as the Rose Line. This line and the obelisk it leads to are featured in Dan Brown's work Angels and Demons, which would be one of the reasons I visited the church.

All photos are from my last trip to France, in May and June of 2007.