This is Paris: Church Saint François Xavier des Missions étrangères!

A while back I did a series on the churches of Paris, well received thank you. However, some were less than others and it is a pity. These monuments are the ones that keeps the wonderful architecture and history of a city today, and Paris is no difference. One of my most pleasurable moments is to visit them in my walks in my eternal Paris. Therefore, here is the revised updated links Church of Saint François-Xavier des Missions étrangères!

And I go on with showing the Churches of Paris on a single blog post. They deserve it I believe, they will show the history, architecture and more of what really is Paris.  I go around and come into these monuments just searching that inner soul of a city ,of any city, and Paris is no different. In the churches we see the real history, wonderful architecture, and the ups and downs of the people over the periods. This one was a surprise, just passing by, (they are so many ) and would like to tell you a bit about it.

I am talking about the Church Saint François Xavier, one of the least visited and one of the prettiest.  The church is located in the 7éme district or arrondissement of Paris, in place de President-Mithouard. It is the place of worship of the Catholic parish Saint-François-Xavier-des-Missions étrangères. A more popular direction would be by the  Boulevard des Invalides in front of Piazza Tardieu, and surrounded by the place of the President-Mithouard. The church was commissioned in 1861, it has a facade is inspired by the Italian Renaissance.  The Church of Saint François Xavier-des-Missions étrangères is the place of worship of the parish of Saint-François-Xavier-des-Missions-Étrangères since 1842; before the construction of the church, its place of worship was the current Chapelle de l’Épiphanie des Missions étrangères de Paris or the Chapel of the Epiphany of the Missions Paris foreign offices located at 128, rue du Bac.


The main façade has a central part flanked by two square towers. The church is framed by two squares: the square Pierre de Gaulle and the square abbot Esquerré. Thanks to its metal frame, the vault rests directly on the lateral walls, with no aisles or tipping arcs. The plan of the Church is in the Classical style with a central nave with lateral chapels, transept and deep apse. The axial Chapel features a statue of the Virgin.  Above the main gate is a remplage-framed rosette of niches containing statues. The ensemble is crowned by a triangular pediment whose bas-relief, appearing Saint Francis Xavier, baptizing the inhabitants of India and Japan. The nave of 5 bays is wide, with a non-protruding transept, but the 3-span choir is narrow and flanked by passages communicating with a large axis Chapel surrounded by an ambulatory.

Internal elevation punctuated by fluted and banded Corinthian columns. The vaults of the nave were decorated with paintings, the rest of the painted décor by several artists. The crossing of the transept is covered with a dome on a colorful pendant.  The metal frame allows the vault to rest directly on the side walls. A triumphal arch showcases the chorus and builds a perspective leading the gaze towards the statue of the Virgin in the axial Chapel.  A construction of the church began by 1861 and  was completed in 1873 (with the exception of its interior decoration), opened for worship in 1874 and consecrated on May 23, 1894.

During the French revolution, like many others churches were closed. The parishioners took the habit of meeting in the Chapel of the seminary of the foreign Missions, located on Rue du Bac. With the Concordat of 1802, the chapel became a parish. Under the Second Empire, the construction of a new church in the Invalides district was decided. The work began in 1861 until 1874. The church is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, the patron of the Missions.

Among the 130 churches in Paris, Saint-François-Xavier is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. The splendor of his choir strikes the visitor as soon as he enters the nave. At the end of the 19C, it was also one of the richest: many donations have come to increase its heritage in works of great masters. One can admire in particular a masterpiece of the Tintoretto; The Last Supper. The artist seized the moment when Christ announces to the apostles that one of them will betray him. See also the crucifixion of Saint Peter by Luca Giordano.  The nave of the Church is separated from the aisles by a suite of fluted columns surmounted by Corinthian capitals enriched with cherubs and thus characterized as composite. These columns are connected by arches in a full hanger. The two levels of the elevation are separated by a protruding cornice that belts the entire building. The cradle Vault features decorative paintings by Alexandre Denuelle.  Under the Second Empire, the construction technique of the churches progressed: a metal frame was built. Masked by a stone covering. This practice has a triple advantage; the building is very strong, construction is fast and not expensive. St. Francis Xavier Church follows this new concept.

The Church of Saint-François-Xavier does not enjoy an important natural luminosity. It has a large number of windows, only two of which are with history on them. These two stained glass windows, dating from 1959, represent Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus. The two transept rosettes, which are identical, possess, for their own, petals decorated with liturgical symbols. The other stained glass windows are geometric compositions, often based on circles sustained colors. In fact, all the stained glass windows, by the intensity of their colors, obstruct the daylight. In grey weather or late afternoon, the church is bathed in a pronounced twilight that only increases until artificial light has taken over.

In the Chapel of the Sacred Heart lies the shrine/body of Sainte Madeleine-Sophie Barat. Born in  1779, she created the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1800 to develop the teaching of young girls. The shrine is in the Chapel of St. Joseph. The Society was transferred to this church in 2009,on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. The direction of the congregation had indeed decided to install the shrine in this church which is next to the buildings where Madeleine-Sophie lived, such as the seat of the congregation ; today the Rodin museum, and the educational establishment for young girls, today lycée Victor-Duruy (high school).

The Choir of the Church of  Saint-François-Xavier is one of the most beautiful in Paris. Above the altar, in the spandrels, Moses holding the Tables of the law and, on the left, his brother Aaron holding his miraculous wand . Finally, above, in front of a Christ of Byzantine inspiration, Saint Francis Xavier presenting to Jesus Christ the peoples he has converted.  The statue of St. Francis Xavier, the sculptor (unknown) represented the Saint brandishing the Cross with a raging and determined gesture. His mouth is open as if he needed to catch his breath with his Cry of Faith. This cry is accentuated by the left hand which grasps the reverse of the garment as if to put the heart to bare and show the violence of his faith.

The Church Saint François Xavier contains many beautiful works of art,not to be photograh , including: The Last Supper, by Le Tintoret ; The Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Geneviève,by Lubin Baugin , La Communion, by Henry Lerolle , Christ in the shroud, by Alfred-Charles Lenoir , and Le Miracle of Saint Francis Xavier, by Benedetto Gennari the Younger. The organs were built in 1878, revised by Cavaillé-Coll in 1890, then by the Ephrem and Gonzalez builders in 1923. Bernard Dargassies completely restored them in 1993. The restored organs were inaugurated on April 10 1996.

Another wonderful find in Paris, and again seldom visited but should be a must, well maybe a route of the Churches of Paris should be an inspiration by the Tourist Board of Paris! I know need to be back here myself. It is served by metro line 13 at Saint-François-Xavier station and by lines 82 (my usual one lately) and 87 of RATP bus network.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are:

The parish Church Saint François Xavier :

The Catholic Churches of Paris on the Church Saint François Xavier:

Hope you enjoy and one mark to be back for more. The Church Saint François Xavier des Missions étrangères is worth the detour, well worth it. And remember, happy travels, good health ,and many cheers to all!!!

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