From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis
Église Sts Paul Louis Paris 1.jpg
The north façade in June 2019
Former name(s)Church of Saint Paul
Consecrated9 May 1641
Architect(s)Étienne Martellange and François Derand

Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis is a church on rue Saint-Antoine in the Marais quarter of Paris. The present building was constructed from 1627 to 1641 by the Jesuit architects Étienne Martellange and François Derand, on the orders of Louis XIII of France. It gives its name to Place Saint-Paul and its nearest Metro station, Saint-Paul.

Next door to the church is the Lycée Charlemagne, also founded by the Jesuits.


A view of the church from the south
The nave and dome over the crossing
The central dome

First church[edit]

The first church on the site was dedicated around 1125[1] to Paul the Hermit, who had been buried in the Egyptian desert by Anthony the Great; it was in effect the cemetery chapel to the monastery of Saint-Éloi, founded by monks of saint Eloi of Noyon and Dagobert I. This monastery was on the site of what is now the parvise of the Palais de Justice. From there, bodies were carried in procession from the monastic community to the cemetery. Madame de Sévigné was baptised in this building in 1626, in the first chapel of Saint-Louis. The monastic cemetery was later forgotten, though the church retained a dedication to a saint Paul (albeit Paul of Tarsus not Paul of Thebes) up to the present day.


The first stone of the present building was laid by Louis XIII in 1627 for the Jesuits in the same street as the old chapel of St Paul. Its first name was 'église Saint-Louis de la maison professe des Jésuites', in reference to the Maison Professe des Jésuites attached to it.

Its design included traditional French elements as well as others inspired by Italy. In effect, as André Chastel put it, "the Jesuit order, even while recommending certain aspects, was attentive to local traditions."[2] Also, it can easily be compared to the Gesu in Rome, though it is longer and wider than that church. Its plan is a compromise between the Gesu's single nave flanked by side chapels and the traditional French cruciform plan, as is to be seen in its long transepts. The tall windows in these prominent transepts and the short eastern apse allow in large amounts of light, and the dome under the crossing also recalls Italian architecture of a slightly earlier period, such as that of Carlo Maderno. In contrast, the high proportions (the dome is 55 metres high) are more comparable to French Gothic architecture.

The façade is also Italian but with French Gothic verticality and Dutch high ornamentation. Its main inspiration was the 1618 façade of the église Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais de Paris by Salomon de Brosse, which has the same design of three bays with two levels on the side bays and three levels for the central bay, highlighted by a projection and doubled columns. It uses Corinthian columns on the two lower levels and composite order columns on the rest.

17th century[edit]

The first mass was celebrated in the new building on 9 May 1641 (the feast of the Ascension) by cardinal Richelieu, with the oremuses pronounced by Bossuet. The famous Jesuit preacher Louis Bourdaloue preached some of his memorable sermons in the church, for Lent and Advent, between 1669 (the date of his first sermon) and 1693. He also preached his memorable funeral sermon for the Grand Condé in the church in 1687, whilst Bossuet and Fléchier also preached here.

Jean-Jacques Olier (founder of the Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice) was baptised in the church on 20 September 1608 and Louis Bourdaloue is buried in the church's crypt. Between 1688 and 1698, Marc-Antoine Charpentier was employed by the Jesuits and was master of music in the church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis. Other masters of music there included André Campra and Louis Marchand. Jacques de Létin painted The Death of Saint Louis for the church, which can still be seen here.

1700 to present[edit]

When the Parlement de Paris suppressed the Jesuits in 1762, the building was reassigned to the canons of Sainte-Catherine-du-Val-des-Ecoliers. On 2 September 1792, 5 priests were killed in the church during the September Massacres, as is commemorated by a commemorative plaque. The church was also converted to the Cult of Reason and the Supreme Being during the French Revolution, before being restored to Catholicism in 1802 due to the Concordat of 1801.

The white marble high altar was moved and rebuilt under Louis-Philippe I with fragments from Napoleon's tomb at Les Invalides. The church was later renamed the 'église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis' in memory of the church of Saint-Paul, which had been demolished in 1796. On 15 February 1843, Léopoldine Hugo secretly married Charles Vacquerie in the church; her father Victor Hugo offered the church two clam-shell holy water holders to mark the occasion, still to be seen in the church.

Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis on the 1734 plan de Turgot

Delacroix painted Christ in agony on the Mount of Olives for the church, which can still be seen here to the left of the altar. The church is currently displaying a placeholder as the original is on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City [1]. The church also houses La vierge del Douleur by Germain Pilon (1586). On one pillar on the right side of the nave is a nearly-erased inscription 'République française ou la mort' (French Republic or death), probably dating to the Paris Commune of 1871.

The casing of the church's grand tribune organ was classified as a historic monument in 1867 and four years later (in 1871) its pipes were replaced by Martin. The whole organ was restored in 1972 by Danion-Gonzalez and now has 3 keyboards with 56 notes and a pedal board with 30 notes, along with electric transmissions and 40 pipes (of which 33 are reels). The choir organ is by Krischer and dates to the 19th century, with two keyboards of 56 notes, a pedal board of 30 notes, mechanical transmissions and 13 pipes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Paroisse Saint Paul Saint Louis | Saint Paul". Paroisse Saint Paul Saint Louis (in French). Retrieved 2018-08-04.
  2. ^ (in French) André Chastel, L'art français L'Ancien Régime 1620-1775, Paris, Flammarion, coll. « Tout l'art », 2000, p. 58.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 48°51′17″N 2°21′41″E / 48.85472°N 2.36139°E / 48.85472; 2.36139