This is Paris: Church of Saint Sulpice!

And we continue with the wonderful Churches of Paris a heaven of history, architecture and religious overtones. This is to know Paris at its best, no where else you will find so much history than on them.

I have come by here, and written on previous blog post bits of it, but never a post solely on it. The Church of Saint Sulpice has a lot history on it if not on my top 3 it is certainly in my top 10. Let me tell you a bit about it, my side.

The église de Saint Sulpice is in the Place Saint-Sulpice within the rue Bonaparte. The current Church took place from a small sanctuary dedicated to Saint Sulpice des Champs which dates back to the 12C, Rebuilt in the 14C and 16C finally considered small; new plans approved in 1645, and first stone laid by the queen Regent Anne of Austria in 1646.  It is the largest Church in Paris with 119 meters long and 57 meters wide.  The selected style is Classicism with abundance of Corinthians elements, the carved decorations (capitals, cherubs, and vases of flames) made the body with stone giving a very neat architectural look.  As said, for all those visiting Paris coming here is a necessary step; its architecture is the epitome of Classicism, the decorations, the murals and frescoes of the chapels deserve careful look. You see the giant clams and its Virgin and Children, reliefs and sumptuous mausoleum offer the Church artistic masterpieces in Paris.

The Saint Sulpice Church is in the Odeon neighborhood of the 6éme district of Paris. It is located in place Saint-Sulpice with an official address of 2 rue Palatine. It is dedicated to Sulpice the pious, Archbishop of Bourges in the 7C.

Saint-Sulpice is not a frequent dedication in the churches of France. Yet it is a French Saint born at the end of the 6C in the Diocese of Bourges and of Noble ancestry. He would have been raised at the Royal palace, which would have initiated him into business. Dubbed the good or the pious, known for his austerity, fasting, his affability, but also for his healing gifts on the sick, indulging in prayer and serving the poor, he was said to enjoy a gift of persuasion through his voice that led people to invite to conversion . The Bishop of Bourges would have conferred on him the orders to make his preaching official. In 624, he was appointed Bishop of Bourges. Pursuing his role as missionary, he focuses on the conversion of the Jews, many in his diocese, and participates in the training of the campaigns. After 17 years of Episcopate, he chose a coadjutor to devote himself entirely to the service of the poor. He died in Bourges in January 646 or 647. More than 340 churches are dedicated to him in France, which is little in a country that has about 45 000 religious buildings.

The present Church of Saint-Sulpice took the place of a small sanctuary dedicated to Saint-Sulpice-des-Champs, which would go up in the 12C. Rebuilt, then enlarged in the 14C and 16C, it eventually proves to be insufficient for the population of the parish. It was the priest Jean-Jacques Olier , who arrived in his duties in 1642, who set in motion what was going to be the very long journey of the construction of the new church. The plans were approved in 1645. The first stone was laid by the Regent Anne of Austria in February 1646. The plans are to build the largest church in Paris (119 meters long and 57 meters wide). The old church will be totally encompassed (it was at the level of the present choir, the Cross of the transept and two bays of the nave). Nothing prevents the building ,but for the sanctuary, the choir and the nave, the old church will have to be broken up gradually.  In 1660, he was the architect and engineer of the King, Daniel Gittard , who took over. His plans, which are accepted, cover the choir, the transept and the nave. They will be respected until the end (apart from the façade whose design is not yet established). He is the real architect of Saint-Sulpice.

The style chosen is the classicism with plenty of Corinthian elements. The sculpted decoration (capitals, cherubs and vases of flames) is made with the stone, giving the whole a beautiful architectural balance, very neat. Radiant chapels, chorus and much of the north arm of the transept are built, when suddenly everything stops due to lack of funds. Forty years will pass. It is the energetic priest Jean-Baptiste Languet de Cergy  who will restart the construction in 1719 thanks to a lottery.

For all those who visit Paris, the Church of Saint-Sulpice is an indispensable step. Its architecture is the very example of classicism. The decorations were highly evolved from the 18C to the 19C. The murals and frescoes of the chapels deserve a careful glance. Each chapel has its own dedicated painter. The sculptures of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle with his two blessed and his Virgin of the Child in the axial Chapel, finally the  Bas-reliefs and a sumptuous mausoleum, offer to the church some masterpieces of the art of Paris.

Paris

The façade of Saint-Sulpice. the construction of the Church began with the axial Chapel, the ambulatory, then the choir, the transept and the nave. Came the necessity in 1726 to choose a façade a Classic styled with two superposed Pedestal, bordered by two lateral towers. This architecture, which is a beautiful part of the straight lines of the school. Each pedestal supports a series of lintels, the whole is crowned with a wide pediment. But this kind of façade is conceived only preceded by a grand forecourt: we must therefore clear the space and, for this, buy back the buildings that are there… to demolish them.

In 1766 the architect dies. The towers are barely begun. In the face of the novelty of the project, the King asked the academy to decide. The project a  low square floor and no more polygonal, with pilasters, as well as a triangular pediment, above, a rotunda tower and not the campanile. The construction of the North Tower resumed in 1775 and ended in 1780. The South tower, because of the French revolution, was never completed.

The Chapel of the Virgin, future Axial Chapel, is the first element that will be built. In October, the young king Louis XIV (he was seven years old), in the presence of the Regent Queen, signed letters Patent authorizing the mastery of work to receive legacies, foundations and donations.  In 1660, after ten years of interruption, the work resumed. The choir and the nine chapels of the ambulatory are erected, then, in 1674, these are the four large piles of the Crusaders. In 1676, the north arm of the transept came out of the ground. The choir of the Old Church (which hinders the construction) is then destroyed. But in 1678, the funding dried up, the crates were empty. In addition, a huge passive is discovered. It is important to be clear: legacies, foundations and donations are not enough for such a large construction. The financial situation is even disastrous forty years will pass. Nothing is more built. The new church will use the nave of the ancient… with a difference of four meters (because the old church dates from the 12C and the natural level of the soil was ascended during the ages-in addition the plans of the new building envisaged a first raised level). The transept is not finished, the South arm does not exist. The aspect of the neighborhood is the one given by a interrupted construction site, with the inevitable nuisances for the residents and a deformed cult house, prey to the bad weather.

In 1714, an energetic abbot was appointed to the priesthood, Jean-Baptiste Languet de Cergy Above all he organizes a lottery that will fill the crates and assure, from 1719, the continuation of the construction site. The construction site will end around 1745 (facade excluded). Nevertheless, in September 1718 with a small bequest, he buys stones that he has deposited at the corner of the streets. Then he distributes a leaflet where the unfinished church, open to all the winds, is drawn. In the foreground is Saint Sulpice in person, accompanied by prelates, who exhorts the wealthy parishioners (and all others) to give.  And from 1719, the work resumed. Languet de Cergy died in 1750,the factory, thankful and then enjoying sound finances, ordered the magnificent mausoleum that can be seen today in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist.  After twenty-five years, in 1746, the Council of State demanded the sharing of profits: a half for Saint-Sulpice (whose façade still remained to be built).

The sculptor Jean-Baptiste Pigalle rested the two giant tridacnes (offered by the Republic of Venice) on marble supports reproducing a marine décor. Above, the Holy One with the famous octopus.  The architecture of the nave, of very classical style.  As for stained glass windows, remember that in the 18C fashion was clear. We can see that the second floor of the nave includes a series of large white glass windows. Saint-Sulpice is a church that enjoys a very high brightness.

After the Concordat of 1802, the church was in a bad state. Work was done to put it back afloat, especially in the re furnitures. Paintings and various objects which were purchased , and even the woodwork of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart.  But it was only from the restoration, and especially from 1824, with the rise on the throne of king Charles X and the arrival of the ultras, that the Church could hope to regain its former splendor.

The Church of Saint-Sulpice is rich in multiple murals and frescoes.  One owes the initiative of these artistic creations to the municipality of Paris. Between 1820 and 1875, the latter commissioned renowned painters to decorate all the lateral and radiant chapels, not forgetting four large canvases in the transept.  Some great names were sought, such as Eugène Delacroix  for the chapel of the Saints-Anges and whose paintings obviously aroused controversy. In 1824, Jean-Dominique Ingres  was asked to take over the chapel of the Souls of purgatory (at that time, dedicated to St. Anne and located next door), but he declined the offer. Refusal that deprived the posterity of a promising artistic comparison.

Chapel of the Holy Angels. This side chapel (the first on the right when entering the church) is one of the most interesting by Eugène Delacroix.  The artist took six years, from 1855 to 1861 (and with the help of an assistant), to create the two large oil and wax paints, as well as the vault that is a strengthened canvas. The spandrels receive large paintings of angels in grey. Jacob’s struggle with the Angel, the subject of one of the two great murals, is the only theme in the Bible where one sees a mortal fight with a celestial being. Jacob fights all night long for the angel to bless him. In response, the Angel tells him that he will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, that is, “strong in front of God.” So it will be the name of the Jewish people, descendant of Jacob. Shows celestial beings throwing ashore the envoy of King Seleucus V, who came to Jerusalem to seize the treasures of the Temple. He is beset by a fiery horse mounted by an angel in the Golden armour and whipped by another angel who descends from heaven. Eugène Delacroix in Saint-Sulpice ,at the time he painted the Chapel of the Holy Angels, the priest of the church had forbidden the artist to work on Sundays. Delacroix was very upset because the music of the offices threw him in such a state of exaltation that he worked twice as many times on Sundays of sung masses. With his assistant, he decided to play a trick on the guard responsible for monitoring the application of the instructions. The chapel, during the works, was closed by a palisade and a door. On a Saturday night, the two compadres set up a mannequin, dressed like the painter, sitting on a chair. On Sunday morning, the caretaker went to check that no one was working. Applying his eye to the keyhole, he saw the dummy, took it for Delacroix and knocked on the door to expel this disrespectful. No answer, he thrust the door. Delacroix and his accomplice come out of their hiding place and surprised our man… in flagrante of breaking and entering. And Delacroix was finally able to work on Sundays!!!

The Chapel of the Virgin is one of the oldest places of the monument. In 1774, enriched with an open dome, very original, responsible for plunging the assumption into a sort of celestial light. You can also see two paintings by Carl Van Loo , about the life of the Virgin, and the Angels of the Slodtz brothers adorned with garlands.  Finally, the most majestic element is undoubtedly the white marble statue, the Madonna with the Child, by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle  in a niche created by Louis-Philippe Mouchy, his nephew and pupil. In this chapel, the Classical and the Baroque come together in a happy way, but in general, the darkness prevents to admire it fully.

Having been restored, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste-de-la-Salle Chapel is one of the most beautiful in the church. The fresco paintings trace two episodes of the Life of Saint Roch, as well as an allegory of his apotheosis on the vault.  There are many chapels dedicated to Jean-Baptiste de la Salle in the churches of France. This presence is justified because this Saint, a contemporary of king Louis XIV, devoted his life to the education and training of the young children of the popular classes, an activity which the Jesuits ensured for the affluent classes. At Saint-Sulpice, he was all the more entitled to his chapel that he was trained in the priesthood at the Sorbonne and at the Séminary de Saint-Sulpice. Here in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste-de-la-Salle chapel, in illustrations of the Life of Saint Roch. The same was done in the Chapel of Saint-Maurice and in the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Chapel. Finally,  see the two masterful frescoes in the Chapelle Saint-Martin.  The fresco of Saint Martin sharing his coat is very nice. The Chapelle Saint-Jean-Baptiste does not shine by the beauty of its paintings, but by its two magnificent works of art in marble: a Saint Jean-Baptiste preaching  and the funeral monument of the parish priest of Cergy.

The funeral monument of the parish priest of Cergy represents the struggle of immortality against death. An angel raises the funeral veil which covered the prelate. Immediately, to the right, death flees, frightened by the hope of eternal life and resurrection, which humbly awaits the prelate, both hands strained. A work with a very strong symbol, made from 1756 to 1758.

In 1777, Birch was hired for the decoration of Saint-Sulpice, undoubtedly on the initiative of the architect Jean-François Chalgrin to whom he is related. Indeed, Chalgrin married the daughter of the painter Joseph Vernet, while Birch married his niece. It is also in 1777 that Chalgrin receives the charge of finishing the façade, in particular-and according to his own plan-the towers. Once the North tower was completed in 1780, Chalgrin addressed the sculptors Louis-Simon Birch and Louis-Philippe Mouchy for the large statues of the four evangelists on the upper floor. Unfortunately, the state of the archives does not allow us to know who did what. Chalgrin also commanded these two sculptors the three large stone statues, which remained unfinished, located in the gallery of the first floor of the Portal. Again, we don’t know who did what. Birch was also responsible for the sculpted decoration of the baptismal font chapel under the North Tower. Small reliefs, statues and great bas-relief of the Baptism of Jesus Christ are still in place, but in plaster. The financial difficulties of the factory have never allowed Birch to create their stone version.

The pulpit to preach of Saint-Sulpice, made in 1788, is an architectural piece as original as it is magnificent. It gives the impression of being suspended in the air. His creator, Charles de Wailly, also author of the Odeon Theatre, did not want to make an pulpit leaning against a pillar of the nave. His project, in a very classical style, was innovative for the time. His pulpit is marked by a great sense of balance in both shapes and colors. The allegories of the theological virtues (Faith and Hope), frozen on the pedestals, seem to weigh with all their weight to stabilize this elegant construction that its apparent lightness seems to threaten to collapse. On the lampshade, Charity  was carved into the wood.

he marble statue of Saint Vincent de Paul holding small children was very successful during its creation. It was exposed to the Salon of 1857 and received a medal.

The Choir of Saint-Sulpice. for the reception of the seminarians, it was decided to expand the sanctuary of the Church by advancing the altar to the nave, and to enrich the choir with a decoration worthy of the greatest Parisian cult places after the Cathedral. In 1825, thanks to a sumptuous tabernacle adorned with four palms created for Saint-Sulpice, the order of the altar pads for the coronation of king Charles X.  The Golden bronze bedrock of the high altar Jesus in the midst of the Doctors of the Church is of the same maker of the choir.

The stained glass windows of Saint-Sulpice. At the end of the 17C, the Church still had only the sanctuary, the Chapels of the ambulatory and the south transept before the work was interrupted for forty years. But this did not prevent the filling the apse and the radiant chapels in stained glass. It is a time when we demand light, and it will be even more true in the 18C.  In the 16C, the Council of Trent opposed the historiated stained-glass windows, which were dear to the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and kept the churches in darkness. At the time of the Counter-Reformation, the faithful were to be able to read the missal inside the building. So, we settle for a beautiful medallion in the center of a white glass window, often enriched with a floral-themed garland around the edges. In Saint-Sulpice, the large windows of the second level of the nave are even filled with white glass. Only the rectangular mesh in lead ensures the decor.

The restoration of the ancient stained glass of Saint-Sulpice began in the 19C. Unfortunately, the explosion of the Luxembourg magazine in 1871 destroyed or damaged many of the stained-glass windows in place. The general restoration of the canopy was done from 1872. The face of Christ in the resurrection has been redone. Perhaps also the face of the Virgin in the Annunciation, although the sources consulted do not mention it. The stained glass window showing Saint Sulpice  in adoration before the Sacred Heart is a creation of 1885 to replace the original stained glass window destroyed during the War of 1870.  Nevertheless, it is at the Church of Saint-Sulpice that one can admire the most important collection of stained glass windows made during the reign of king Louis XIV. More precisely, their creation is part of the decade 1670. During the visit of the church, we must not miss to have an eye on the floral decorations of the borders.

The organ of Saint-Sulpice has an international reputation. Built by Cliquot in 1781 (with 5 keyboards and 64 games), it was already looked at at the time as one of the best in the kingdom. Aristide Cavaillon-Coll rebuilt it from 1857 to 1861. He reused many of the elements created by Cliquot to link classical tradition with romance. The 20C has respected this illustrious instrument; it has retained all its original characteristics. And many wonderful concerts are played here indeed today.

There you go a historical big Church of Paris, a must to visit at least once in your lifetime. Hope you enjoy the reading, sorry a bit long, but the history I like is long here (I had condensed it).

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

The Saint Sulpice Church webpage: http://www.stsulpice.com/

Catholic Churches of Paris: https://www.paris.catholique.fr/-saint-sulpice-.html

Tourist office of Paris on the Church Saint Sulpice: https://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/93215/Eglise-Saint-Sulpice

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

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