Eglises et chapelle de Paris, Part 1

A statue of the VIrgin Mary at the Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church

WHEN in Paris, walk. It’s the best way to explore the place and discover what’s hidden in the nooks and crannies of the old city, areas that other tourists don’t even reach — or care to consider. Follow the cobblestone paths and be amazed at what you might come across at.

I walk a lot when I’m in the French capital. I’m literally on my feet for hours but I don’t mind. What I have discovered will make up for the sore muscles. There are four holy places, a few of the many very interesting places I chanced upon, those “I wonder how it looks like in there” spots. I’m glad I went in.

L’église de la Madeleine or La Madeleine in the 8th arrondissement (nearest Metro stop: Madeleine) could easily be mistaken for a government office or a bank with its dull grey hue and imposing pillars.

Doesn’t look like much of a church corridor, does it?

Would I ever think it is a Roman Catholic Church set against the posh shopping streets of Rue Saint Honore and Rue Royal? No, it’s a bit difficult to look away from the striking visuals of the luxury brands and look towards this edifice. It was a local who told me what it was and showed me the place.

Detail of the COrinthian column & tip of pediment.
The left corridor of the church’s exterior.

The neo-classical design of the church was designed as a temple to the glory of Napoleon’s army inspired by a Roman temple, which accounts for its grand façade. The building is wrapped with fifty-two Corinthian columns, each at 20-meters high, with a pediment sculpture of the Last Judgment.

La Madeleine’s imposing design took its inspiration from a Roman temple. Would you ever think this is a Catholic Church?
A grand building needs a grand entrance-bronze doors bearing the reliefs that represent the Ten Commandments at 354 feet long by 141 feet wide. 
The bronze doors with reliefs of representing the Ten Commandments.
Features inside the church: a single nave with three lavishly gilded domes over wide arched bays; 
The interior sports three lavishly gilded domes over wide arched bays.
at the rear of the church, above the high altar, is St. Mary Magdalene being lifted up by angels; 
The statue of St. Mary Magdalene being lifted up by angels.
the half-dome above the altar with The History of Christianity fresco showing the key figures in the Christian religion (of course, Napoleon is at the center stage.)
The History of Christianity fresco with the key figures in the Christian religion. Note that Napoleon in red cape is at the center stage.

The baptism of Jesus sculpture
St, Joan of Arc

The pulpit

Looking for a museum around the Marais quarter lead us to this spot instead-the Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis on rue Sant-Antoine (nearest Metro stop: Saint Paul), a 1641 Jesuit designed Roman Catholic church erected on the orders of Louis XIII, who laid the first stone in 1627.

The façade of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis.
The design is a fusion of traditional French elements and Italian inspirations-a French-inspired cruciform plan with Italian-inspired single nave with side chapels;

The interior design of the church is a fusion of Italian & traditional French.

Tall windows that usher natural lighting significantly and the dome under the crossing is an Italian touch while the high proportions of the dome is French Gothic architecture in style.

The altar of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis.
Italian touch—large window that usher in significant amount of natural light.

The façade is no different, it’s a fusion of styles-it’s Italian but with French Gothic verticality and Dutch high ornamentation.

These are two of the unexpected surprises that came my way and there are a couple more holy places that I chanced upon on my walking tour of Paris. Let me tell you about them in the next travel issue.

If you find yourself in Paris again, walk. It will be a delightful experience.

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