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Paris (75), église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, façade occidentale.JPG
Front of the Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre church
AffiliationCatholic Church
ProvinceArchdiocese of Paris
RiteMelkite Greek
Location5th arrondissement, Paris
Geographic coordinates48°51′7.5″N 2°20′49.5″E / 48.852083°N 2.347083°E / 48.852083; 2.347083Coordinates: 48°51′7.5″N 2°20′49.5″E / 48.852083°N 2.347083°E / 48.852083; 2.347083
Completed13th century

Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, in full Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre (French for Church of Saint Julian the Poor), is a Melkite Greek Catholic parish church in Paris, France, and one of the city's oldest religious buildings. Built in Romanesque style during the 13th century, it is situated in the 5th arrondissement, on the Left Bank of the Seine River, about 500 meters away from the Musée de Cluny and in the proximity of the Maubert-Mutualité Paris Métro station. It shares a city block with the Square René Viviani.

Originally a Roman Catholic place of worship, Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre was built in stages from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and granted to the Eastern Catholic Melkite community in 1889. Its design was modified several times, and the resulting church is significantly smaller in size than originally planned.


The church was dedicated to two medieval French saints of the same name: Julian of Le Mans and a figure from the region of Dauphiné.[1] "The poor" is said to originate from Julian of Le Mans, whose dedication to the cause of the poor was considered exemplary.[1]


Roman Catholic church[edit]

Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre replaced a Merovingian refuge for pilgrims,[1][2] or an older church dating back to the 6th century.[3] The earliest mention of such a site was found in texts authored by Gregory, bishop of Tours, who resided there during the rule of Chilperic I, king of Neustria.[1] A synagogue serving the Jewish residents, probably the oldest in the city, was located in its environs.[4]

The new building, inspired by either the Notre Dame Cathedral[2] or the Saint Pierre de Montmartre church,[3] was begun ca. 1165-1170.[2] The building effort was supported by the Clunaic monastic community of Longpont, and their enterprise resulted in the completion of the choir and, most likely, the nave (ca. 1210-1220).[2] According to 16th century chronicler Étienne Pasquier, the site was connected with the University of Paris foundation, serving as a site for its College of Sorbonne of theology and arts, and, after the resulting split between the faculties, only as the School of Arts.[1]

All early construction seems to have stopped ca. 1250.[3] In 1651, following several centuries of neglect, two of the original bays in the nave were demolished, and a northwestern facade was added; the northern aisle was preserved, and two of its bays serves as a sacristy.[2] After more than a century, during the French Revolution, the building was listed for demolition, and suffered more damage as a result.[1] Before the second half of the 19th century, Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre underwent restoration under the direction of architect Franz Christian Gau.[5]

Melkite church[edit]

Inscription posed by the Third French Republic on one of the church walls, outlining the building's history

In 1889, under the Third French Republic, the church was awarded to the Melkite Catholic (Arab and Middle Eastern) community in Paris.[2] In preparation for this, significant restoration was again carried out.[2] The arrangement was criticized by writer Joris-Karl Huysmans, who objected to introducing non-traditional forms to an old scenery: "This intrusion of the Levant into Saint-Séverin parish is [...] in absolute disagreement with the surroundings."[6]

View inside the church

The Dada performance piece[edit]

On April 14, 1921, Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre was a venue for one of the last major performance art experiments in the history of the Dada avant-garde trend. Deemed a "Dada excursion", the event involved writers Tristan Tzara, André Breton, Philippe Soupault, as well as artist Francis Picabia. The group printed a pamphlet which read: "Today, at 15:00 hours, in the garden of St-Julien-le-Pauvre church, Dada [...] extends a free invitation to its friends and enemies to join it in visiting the church's buildings. It will not be an anticlerical demonstration, as one would be inclined to believe, but rather a new interpretation of nature applied this time not to art, but to life."[7] As they distributed copies, they shouted insulting or provocative slogans to passers-by: "Be dirty!... One must trim his nose as one trims his hair!... One must wash her breasts like she washes facecloths..."[7]

The "Dada excursion", conceived as a manner to revive the public's awareness of Dada, failed to gain needed attention, and, together with a mock trial of reactionary writer Maurice Barrès held later in the year, helped create a rift between Tzara's group and the future Surrealists Breton and Picabia.[8]

Concert venue[edit]

The church continues to be a venue for concerts featuring classical and other types of music.[9]

Other features[edit]

Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre was designed in the conservative tradition prevalent during the rule of King Louis the Younger.[3] The only one of the city's twelfth-century parish churches to have endured,[3] it was never completed in its original design: the choir area was intended to be three stories high, and the clerestory is an incomplete triforium; the nave was supposed to be covered by sexpartite vaults, which were replaced by a wooden roof and, after the 17th century, by a new system of vaults; and, of a tower meant to stand on the church's southern side, only the staircase was begun.[2] The eastern apses use material from an older building.[2]

The building has piers replicating those found in Notre Dame, and the chapiters are carved with images of leaves and harpies.[2] The choir area is covered by an iconostasis.[2]

North of the church, in the Square René Viviani, exists the oldest tree in Paris. It is a locust tree planted in 1602 by Jean Robin, gardener-in-chief during the reign of kings Henry III, Henry IV, and Louis XIII. Also known as the "Lucky Tree of Paris", it is thought to bring years of good luck to those who gently touch the tree's bark.


  1. ^ a b c d e f A. and W. Galignani, The History of Paris from the Earliest Period to the Present Day, Paris, 1825, p.350-351
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Andrew Ayers, The Architecture of Paris, Éditions Axel Menges, Stuttgart & London, p.103. ISBN 3-930698-96-X
  3. ^ a b c d e "Paris", in William Westcott Kibler (ed.), Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, Routledge, London, p.703. ISBN 0-8240-4444-4
  4. ^ Toni L. Kamins, The Complete Jewish Guide to France, St. Martin's Press, New York, 2001, p.65. ISBN 0-312-24449-5
  5. ^ "Franz Christian Gau", entry in the 1813 Catholic Encyclopedia (wikisource)
  6. ^ Robert Ziegler, "The Containment and Diffusion of History in Huysmans' Saint-Séverin", in Keith Busby (ed.), Correspondances: Studies in Literature, History, and the Arts in Nineteenth-century France, Rodopi, Amsterdam, 1992, p.255. ISBN 90-5183-296-6
  7. ^ a b (in French) Jacques-Yves Conrad, Promenade surréaliste sur la colline de Montmartre Archived 2008-09-15 at the Wayback Machine, at the University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle Center for the Study of Surrealism Archived 2008-03-27 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved April 27, 2008
  8. ^ Hans Richter, Dada. Art and Anti-art, Thames & Hudson, London & New York, 2004, p.183-185. ISBN 0-500-20039-4
  9. ^ Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre Event Dates

External links[edit]