Saint Etienne du Mont church in Montagne Sainte-Geneviève in the Latin Quarter of Paris is a stunning example of Gothic architecture. This church is located near the Panthéon and has a distinct appearance.
Attracting sightseers since the late 15th century, this church has roots that go back to the sixth century. In addition to the Saint Genevieve shrine and the enormous balcony organ, the rood screen from 1545 is a must-see. The church is a protected historical site.
Table of Contents
- Saint Genevieve, Patron Saint of Paris
- History of Saint Etienne du Mont
- A perfect representation of the change in the architectural styles
- Saint Etienne du Mont during the French Revolution
- Saint Etienne du Mont in the Second Empire
- Parish church and a final resting place
- Architecture of Saint Etienne du Mont
- Exterior features of Saint Etienne du Mont Church
- Interior Features of Eglise Saint Etienne du Mont
- Église Saint Étienne du Mont Today
- How to get there
- Visit Saint Etienne du Mont!
Saint Genevieve, Patron Saint of Paris
Saint Genevieve is venerated as the patron saint of Paris. People believe that she warded off the Huns from the French capital. Bishop St. Germain of Auxerre convinced Geneviève to become a nun at seven years old. She relocated to Paris after the death of her parents.
There she became known for her religious devotion and generous deeds. She is claimed to have seen into the future and anticipated the arrival of the Huns based on her many prophetic visions.
In 451, Attila was on the way to invade Paris. Genevieve convinced the people to stay and pray instead. She told them that the event would be meaningless since they were under God’s protection. A further 110 kilometers away from Paris, Attila’s troops were defeated at the Battle of Orléans. Genevieve convinced King Childeric I to build a church on the grave of St. Denis, a patron saint of France.
Saint Genevieve was laid to rest at the Church of the Holy Apostles, today the Sainte-Geneviève Church. Her corpse was burned in the Place de Grève during the French Revolution in 1793. Her remains are still revered by believers today at the Church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. A loaf of bread is used to symbolize the kindness of Saint Genevieve.
See Related: Basilique Saint Denis
History of Saint Etienne du Mont
Mount Lucotecius, located on the left side of the Seine, was populated by the Parisii tribe of Lutetia during the Gallo-Roman era. They chose this area which was less wet than their original riverside encampment. They built a theater, baths, and villas on this ground.
Clovis, King of the Franks, constructed a basilica there in the 6th century. He devoted the basilica to Saints Peter and Paul. Clovis, his wife Clotilde, and several other kings from the Merovingian dynasty were laid to rest there. Saint Genevieve was also laid to rest there. In 502, the adjacent Abbey of Sainte-Genevieve was founded, and the church became a part of the Abbey.
The area’s population increased, especially with the opening of the College of Sorbonne in 1222. Pope Honorius III granted permission for the construction of a new independent church. This was dedicated to Saint Etienne (also known as Saint Stephen). The location of the new church is next to the historic Abbey church, to the north.
The neighborhood expanded, and more universities were established. Because of this, the church officials decided to build a new, much larger church in the fashionable Gothic style. The local Génovéfain monks gave some of their lands in 1492, so the church could be built there.
The pace of work was slow. In 1494, architect Stephen Viguier designed the apse and bell tower; by 1500, the first two bells had been cast. In 1537, construction on the choir was finished, and in 1541, the altars in the apse chapels were blessed.
A perfect representation of the change in the architectural styles
There was a shift in style as the construction of Saint Etienne du Mont church progressed. Artisans were given commissions to finish the windows and sculptures in the new Renaissance design that same year. The Renaissance-style nave was completed in 1584.
Marguerite de Valois laid the first stone for the façade in 1610. The church was eventually consecrated on February 25, 1626, by the first archbishop of Paris, Jean-François de Gondi. The church’s elaborate carved pulpit was installed in 1651.
Saint-Etienne-du-Mont was a well-regarded church in the 17th and 18th centuries. St. Genevieve’s Shrine was transported to and from Notre Dame de Paris in an annual procession that began here.
In 1744, King Louis XV replaced the neighboring abbey with a much bigger church. After several renovations and alterations of use, this church became the Paris Panthéon.
Saint Etienne du Mont during the French Revolution
Churches were closed and transformed into “Temples of Filial Piety” during the French Revolution. Significant damage was done to the sculpture, decoration, and stained glass, and many church treasures were lost.
In 1803, the Concordat of 1801 authorized the return of Catholic worship. In 1804, the nearby abbey church was dismantled to make way for the development of rue Clovis. The original bell tower, the only remaining structure, is now a component of the Lycée Henri IV campus.
See Related: Place de la Bastille
Saint Etienne du Mont in the Second Empire
Between 1865 and 1868, the church was renovated significantly under the Second Empire of Napoleon III. Paris city architect Victor Baltard led the project. Artwork and stained glass destroyed during the Revolution were reinstalled during this time. The front was also raised to its original height. In addition, he constructed a new chapel, the Chapel of Catechisms.
Parish church and a final resting place
Saint Étienne du Mont is the final resting place of many notable scientists and artists. This includes Pierre Perrault and painter Eustache Le Sueur. This is also the final resting place of the mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal. In 1711, the remains of playwright Jean Racine were relocated to Saint-Etienne from Port-Royal.
On World Youth Days in 1997, Pope John Paul II beatified Frederic Ozanam in the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont. Ozanam chose Saint Etienne du Mont as the parish church for the inaugural meeting of the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Society.
Architecture of Saint Etienne du Mont
Exterior features of Saint Etienne du Mont Church
The west front of this church is an elongated Renaissance-style pyramid with three levels. It was designed by Charles Guerin and finished in 1610. The bottom level is full of sculptures. It has a traditional triangle fronton with a bas-relief of Christ’s resurrection. Above the level’s focal point is a Gothic rose window that sits under a slightly curved fronton with sculptures of the French and Abbey coats of arms. The triangular roof is broken up at the very top by an elliptical rose window.
Interior Features of Eglise Saint Etienne du Mont
Inside, the space is as grand as a hall church, measuring 69 meters in length and 25.50 meters in width. The huge windows flood the cathedral with natural light. The collateral aisles flank the nave and choir are exceptionally high.
The church’s interior is a fusion of Flamboyant Gothic and Italian Renaissance styles. The Gothic style provides the church’s complex rib vaults with hanging keystones and its classical columns, arcades, and many sculpted angel heads.
Two stories of great arcades supported by round columns and rounded arches divide the nave from the outside, or collateral, aisles. The balustrades in this arcade’s walkway showcase religious tapestries during special church holidays. Large windows line the upper surfaces of the walls along the collateral aisles, flooding the space with natural light. Due to the irregular site, the axis running from the nave to the transept has a minor bend.
The church’s most remarkable feature is its Jubé or Rood screen. It dates back to around 1530 and is the sole surviving example in Paris. It’s a beautiful sculptural screen between the nave and the choir. The screen served as a pulpit where the priest could deliver sermons and readings from the Bible. They were widespread in the Middle Ages, but the Council of Trent ordered their removal.
The screen serves a Gothic function but features French Renaissance-style ornamentation. It is shaped like a three-arched bridge that spans the space between the choir and the audience. The central area, opposite the nave, is occupied by a tribune for readings. The tribune can be accessed from each side through two very stylish spiral stairways.
Unique to this church are Father Biard’s exquisitely carved stone rood screen and his chair, created by Laurent de La Hyre and carved by Claude Lestocart. The church’s organ case dates back to 1631.
See Related: Saint Séverin
Église Saint Étienne du Mont Today
Église Saint Étienne du Mont is still an active Catholic church. It is also a historical monument and one of the popular tourist attractions in Paris because of its unique beauty. Although visitors are welcome, everyone is asked to respect the church-goers by keeping quiet and not wandering.
A Holy Service is held during the school year on Monday at 6:45 pm, Tuesday through Friday at 12:15 pm, and Wednesday and Thursday at 6:45 pm. Another service is held on Saturdays at 11 am, while Mass is held on Saturdays at 6:45 pm. On Sundays, Mass is held at 9 am, 11 am, and 6:45 pm.
During school holidays, however, there is a Holy Service every Tuesday through Friday at 6:45 pm and on Saturday at 11 am. Then, the Sunday Masses are held on Saturday at 6:45 pm and 11 am and 6:45 pm on Sunday.
How to get there
The Church of St. Etienne on the Hill may be found in Paris’s 5th Arrondissement, close to the Pantheon. Metro Line 10’s Cardinal Lemoine stop is the closest Metro station, while RER Line B’s Luxembourg stop is the closest RER station.
If you’d rather take the bus, you may reach close to this landmark and others like The Pantheon by using lines 38, 47, 63, 82, 86, 87, 89. You can also ride the Noctilien night bus service N14, N15, N22, or N122.
See Related: The Ultimate Travel Guide to the Eiffel Tower
Visit Saint Etienne du Mont!
If you’re looking for someplace peaceful and quiet to go on your trip, make sure to visit Saint Etienne du Mont Church. It’s a beautiful piece of history that will make your trip to the city all the more memorable. There are lots of things to do here. You can attend mass or just hang out; either way, you’re guaranteed to have an incredible experience!