Church Notre-Dame-des-Champs of Paris!

This is again another dandy monument in my eternal Paris. I have done quite a bit of walking in Paris, and public transports and by car and always amazes me of the wonderful monuments that not only are known but also unknown to most. This is another beauty in the Church Notre Dame des Champs of Paris; hope you enjoy it as I

Going along in my updates of beautiful monuments of  Paris, and seeing its many monument will do wonders to your senses. Walking is like stepping into an outdoor museum , all beautiful. Some of the things we see sometimes does not bring the couriosity in us, after all so many to choose from indeed. However, once we decided to go in, we see why Paris is call the most beautiful city in the world, inside and outside! I worked here,not far, and do come by Montparnasse in the last few years quite often, almost once a month or more.  The monument is a Church ,but there is more to a Church in France than religion, many things in history do happened in them.

The Church of Notre-Dame-des-Champs , located at 91, boulevard du Montparnasse, in the 6éme district of Paris (out of 20 in Paris).  It gives its name to the Notre-Dame-des-Champs neighborhood, in the southern part of which the church is located, and which is the 23rd neighborhood of Paris (out of 80 in Paris). The church is bordered on one side by the square Ozanam, opposite lies the restaurant La Coupole.


A bit of history I like

The remnants of a Roman temple dedicated to the cult of the God Mercury have been found some distance from the present church. After the conversion of the Parisian region to Christianity, the temple was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was baptized Notre-Dame-des-Vignes,(vineyards) the place being surrounded by vineyards. Thereafter, King Robert the Pious enlarged Notre-Dame-des-Vignes to honor the place where Saint-Denis would have celebrated the Holy Mysteries. The tradition reports that, arriving at Lutècia, had first settled in this place. The Benedictines of Marmoutier Abbey soon transformed the Church into a priory; they tore out the surrounding vines and renamed the Church “Notre-Dame-des-Champs”. This sanctuary, a crypt in the basements of the building at 14bis Rue Pierre-Nicole became a place of pilgrimage to which you could go in by the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, which bypassed the paddock of the monks from the south. In 1604, the Benedictines ceded Notre-Dame-des-Champs to the Duchess of Orléans-Longueville, who installed Carmelite nuns from Spain who made their monastery one of the most famous in the 17C. It was there that successively withdrew Mademoiselle de La Valliére and Madame de Montespan.

At the French revolution, the Convent was closed and the Church destroyed. In 1802 the nuns bought a small part of their old estate, and built a small chapel dedicated to Notre-Dame-des-Champs at currently 25 Rue Henri-Barbusse and a new cloister surmounted by their living quarters. This second Carmel was abolished in 1906, and there remained only the memory, perpetuated by rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. In 1858, a parish was created for the district, which naturally received the name of Notre-Dame-des-Champs, with a wooden chapel located at 153 and 155 Rue de Rennes. The architecture of the present church is of Romanesque inspiration. The first stone was laid in 1867 and, eight years later,in 1876, the Church received its blessing. In 1912 the Church was consecrated by Cardinal Léon-Adolphe Amete, Archbishop of Paris.

The law of separation of Church and state from 1905 on Notre-Dame-des-Champs. It should be recalled that the law of 1905 asked the parishes to create each a worship association to which the property of the state-owned, newly-crowned public institutions would be attributed. To mark his opposition to the law, the Church of France refused these associations (which are nevertheless commonplace today). The law of 1905 stipulated that, without attribution to an association, these assets were to be placed under receivership-which, of course, went through a prior inventory. And this inventory was in the eyes of the religious and the faithful the infamous imprint of the Republic on religious life. So a casus belli. In other words nationalisation as in many revolutions.

Obviously, in order to establish the inventories, the officers of the state demanded the collaboration of the religious… and they refused in protest. In December 1905, Cardinal Richard put his instructions to the Parisian parishes: to follow the inventory operations, without directing them, and to make all the useful reservations when the interests of the priests and Churches appear compromised. In Notre Dame des Champs, the priest and the members of the Church displayed, in an official letter, their refusal to lend their hand to the authorities.  When the officers of the State arrived in front of the Church square on January 31, 1906 at  14h or 2pm, a stormy crowd awaited them. There were two blocks there. The first, the “people of the barriers”, guided by former communards and socialist leaders, cried: “Down with the cap!” The other, a defender of the parish priest, was made up of Bretons whose arrival in the capital for some decades had helped to radically change the social face of the neighbourhood. As belligerent as the other, the two groups came to the hands. On the Breton side, we heard shouting: “Down with thieves!” and “Go to the Grand Orient!”, putting the law of separation on the account of Freemasonry.  After two hours of confrontation, in accordance with the instructions they had received, the officers of the State withdrew empty handed. When the demonstrators left, the priest of the Church recited the Rosary in public. Notre Dame des Champs Church was classified in the parishes of the refusal. The Historical context above are translated by me from the book “Brève histoire de la paroisse Notre-Dame-des-Champs” (Brief history of the parish of Our Lady of the Fields) by Bernard Plongeron, Honorary Professor of the Institut Catholique de Paris( Catholic Institute of Paris) . Edited on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Church 1858-2008.

Some on the architecture. Like many Churches built in Paris under the Second Empire, the building has a metal frame made by Gustave Eiffel. This allows it to benefit from a high vault and an important space. The nave is chanted with arched arcades supported by pillars. Beyond the ionic capitals emerge from the columns engaged to the arches.  The Church Notre-Dame-des-Champs boasts a double series of canopies, on the aisles and the second level of the elevation. The stained glass windows bring to the nave and chorus all the light necessary to admire the paintings.

paris church notre dame des champs mar13

And a bit on the interiors.

The statue of the Madonna is above the altar of the Virgin and represents the Blessed Virgin carrying the child Jesus, holding in his hands a crown of thorns. It is one of the most beautiful virgins to the child of Paris. The 14 paintings of the way of the cross, the murals of the church are all splendid and esoteric.


The Chapel of Saint Joseph located in the north transept has a painting representing the rest of the Holy Family. This work has the peculiarity of showing Saint Joseph hug the child Jesus surrounded by the Virgin Mary and by the four main archangels: Michel, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel.  The Sacred Heart Chapel in the south transept has a painting, dating from 1885, representing the Sacred Heart.

The 22 paintings located at the second level of the elevation in the nave and the choirs of the Church were made on strengthened canvas, i.e. a canvas glued to the wall.  Built between 1891 and 1907 and represent the life of the Virgin Mary.  The paintings by Joseph Aubert ,of Breton origin, devoted 18 years of his life to the artistic work of the Notre-Dame-des-Champs Church. He made all the paintings with the exception of both the chapels of the Sacré-Coeur and Saint-Joseph. The artist uses the technique of the strengthened canvas: a canvas fixed on a wall using glue pressed against it. For his 22 paintings of the Life of the Virgin, Aubert has documented himself by making several trips to Palestine to observe the costume of the people, and more specifically, the daily life of women. Moreover, many places visited are found on his paintings. Let us note that the paintings of the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Champs highlight the two natures of the Virgin, the triumphant in the sky above the earthly creatures as seen in the vault in the furnace; that of the nave and where it appears in its earthly life, as a woman of Galilee who is clad in the embroidered robe which is still worn, today.  These painting gained notoriety abroad as four paintings of the Church were purchased by American religious art lovers (the works exhibited are replicas). Innovative in decorations and costumes, also in the interpretation made of “the Last Supper”. The artist did not represent a meal, but a communion. Jesus stands up, a chalice in his hands. The apostles are standing on their knees or leaning towards him. Those who sit at the table will have to leave it to commune, too, with divine blood. In this very beautiful painting, it is necessary to underline the meticulous work of the artist and his search for realism in the painting of the room, the costumes and the accessories of the meal.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and it is recommended are:

The Parish webpage of the Church of Notre Dame des Champs

The Paris tourist office on the Church Notre Dame des Champs

This is hugely wonderful and a must see while in Paris, you are missing something else if not by here. It is really wonderful to see, and I finf myself looking at something that is not much mention but really a gem of Paris.  Do come to see the Church Notre Dame des Champs. Hope it helps your discover more of Paris. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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