And St Merri Church in Paris!

Ok so I told you how much I have walked all over Paris and that I worked in it for almost 10 years while living just next door at Versailles! Well, I have, also told you that there is so many things to see here that you will need a lifetime. Ok so this is one monument I have never been inside! Passed by it as it is in a popular area, had my pints but never occur to me to go inside until now.

There is always time to indulge in Paris and there is always new things to see (old things new to me lol!). So let me tell you a bit on the Church of Saint Merri in Paris!

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The Saint-Merri Church is located near the Centre Georges-Pompidou (see previous post) at the intersection of rue Saint-Martin and rue de la Verrerie  by No 76) in the 4éme arrondissement of Paris. The name Saint-Merri comes from the abbot St. Mederic, who died in the year 700, canonized and renamed Saint Merri by contraction. The remains of this Saint still rest in the crypt of the church!

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A bit of history I like

Tradition has it that Médéric, abbot of the abbey of Saint-Martin d’Autun, came to live as a hermit in a hut near the oratory Saint-Pierre-des-Bois which stood at this place. He died in 700 and was buried there and the oratory was transformed into a chapel under the name of Saint-Pierre-des-Bois Chapel or more simply Saint-Pierre Chapel.

In 884, the bishop of Paris exhumed the body , and put in a shrine the remains of Saint-Médéric, which will become Saint-Merri, now considered as relics. It is at this time that Saint-Médéric is chosen to become the patron Saint of the rive droite or right bank of Paris, and the chapel then taking the name of Saint-Médéric Chapel or Chapel Saint-Merri.  Around 1010, the bishop of Paris, donated it to the chapter of Notre-Dame. Becoming collegiate, it is then served by a community of seven canons from the chapter. In 1200, the church built in its place is erected in parish under the name of Saint-Merri. It is thus one of the four daughters of Notre Dame, and the last remaining one today.

The current Church of St Merri was built between 1515 and 1612. The crypt, the nave, and the aisles date from 1515-1520, the arms and the cross of the transept from 1526-1530, the choir and the apse were completed in 1552, while the work ended in 1612, when the bell tower is raised one floor. The  18C is for the church an era of reshuffle , when the rood screen of 1558 is destroyed in 1709, rework the choir whose arched bows are bent and covered as the pillars of a marble veneer and stucco. The floor is covered with a marble pavement, the furniture is renewed and the stained glass windows are partly replaced by white glass.  Closed in 1793 because of the French revolution, the Church of Saint Merri becomes a saltpetre factory. From 1797 to 1801, theophilanthropes made it the “Temple of Commerce”.  The church ended up being returned to Catholic worship in 1803.

The Church of Saint Merri is entirely flamboyant Gothic, with no trace of Renaissance architecture. Its layout evokes that of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris. It was administered by seven canons of the cathedral and was nicknamed Notre Dame le petit or little Notre Dame.  The west facade, flamboyant Gothic style, is covered with canopies, arches, canopies, foliage friezes and fantastic animals, especially on the side door frames. A little further up is a slender, narrow campanile whose wooden top contains a very old bell dating back to 1311, which would probably be the oldest in Paris. The main portal is pierced by three ogival doors surmounted by crossettes and jewels.

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The windows of the upper windows of the first spans of the nave dating from the early 16C retrace the life of Saint Nicolas de Myre, Saint Francis of Assisi, Sainte Madeleine and Sainte Agnes.  The side windows of the choir ,16C, illustrate the History of the Patriarch Joseph and the Apostolate of Saint Peter. Those of the apse, with in the center the Resurrection of Christ. Two stained glass windows of the 16C, enclosed to the left of the altar of the Virgin, depicting Saint Martin giving his coat to a poor man, a Pieta and Saint Eloi.

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The nave with five spans and ogive vault was completed in 1520. The transept was completed in 1526. The right arm is confined by two screws of Saint-Gilles. The choir, completed in 1552, its length is substantially the same as the nave. The Chapel of the communion was built in 1743 , it consists of three square bays symbolizing the real world, lit by three oval lanterns, with arches separated by Corinthian pilasters. The openwork cupolas symbolize the celestial vault. The square bell tower having been endowed with a third floor in 1612, has found since the fire of 1871 its height of origin of two floors. On the left, you can see an octagonal turret decorated with arcatures, surmounted by a campanile sheltering the oldest bell of Paris c. 1331. The crypt, completed in 1515 under the fifth chapel on the left of the nave, houses since 1884 the shrine containing the relics of Saint Merri. Dating from the 16C, the presbytery of Saint-Merri was remodeled in 1731.

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The decorative elements of the current Church of Saint Merri are inspired by themes honored after the Council of Trent and during the spiritual renewal of the 17C. Saint-Merri Church has a large collection of paintings from the 17C to the 19C.  The organ with five turrets was built from 1647 to 1650. The turret buffet was made in 1647. Two angels with bird bodies support the large side turrets. The wooden stand is work of 1755, and it is supported by four fluted wooden pillars surmounted by Ionic capitals. A frieze of reeds and ears, a lion mask and two fire pots complete the carved decoration. The instrument was expanded by François-Henri Clicquot in 1779, then transformed from 1855 to 1857 by Cavaillé-Coll and in 1947 by Victor Gonzalez . There is Choir organ or Organ Merklin from 1880. The wooden pulpit dates from 1753. The former baptismal font with the arms of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany. In all a nice Church.

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There is still quite a bit of work going on, and a vast renovation project has been years in the making, read probably all finish by 2021. However, it is still open. More in the city of Paris webpage in French here: City of Paris on renovation work of St Merri Church

An anecdote worth noticing. The Baphomet, that is to say for some the Devil, for others the idol possibly venerated by the Templars whose main house was very close to Saint-Merri, or finally simply the occitanization of Mahomet. This little devil, being horned half man and half woman with bat wings, evokes the publications of Eliphas Levi (born Alphonse-Louis Constant). It belongs to the occult iconography of the 19C, inspired by ancient figures found in the Templars. This unusual presence is reported by Claude Seignolle in his collection of short stories La Nuit des Halles, Umberto Eco in his novel The Pendulum of Foucault as well as by the writers Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne in their novel The Seventh Templar (page 429). Like the entire main facade, it was restored during the work done in 2013-2014. Nice

The official webpage of the parish of St Merri is here in French: Parish of Saint Merri

So there you go a masterpiece church often overlook and totally bypassed by yours truly until now. Paris is always amazing and so is my belle France. Now, enjoy the Church of Saint Merri in Paris

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

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One Comment to “And St Merri Church in Paris!”

  1. There are so many places to visit in Paris, still so much I have yet to visit…

    Liked by 1 person

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