Sainte-Clotilde Basilica is a Roman Catholic church in Paris, France. It is located on Rue Las Cases in the city’s 7th Arrondissement. Before its construction, the inhabitants of the district had only a small chapel dedicated to Saint Valère, located on Rue de Bourgogne.
Located between Invalides and Musée d’Orsay, Sainte Clotilde-and-Saint-Valère church was built between 1846 and 1857. It construction was first led by Christian Gau (who died in 1854), followed by Théodore Ballu. Its main style is neo-gothic, and its characteristic is in its two 69-meter high spires. Inside, the new altar was created by Goudji in 2007.
You can also admire the stained-glass windows by the 19th-century glass artist Thibaut. Bless your eyes with paintings from Lenepveu and sculptures from Pradier and Duret. You may also enjoy the details of sculptures of Guillaume about the life and apparition of Saint Valérie. In 1897, on the anniversary of the 1400 years of Clovis’s baptism, Pope Léon XIII made the church a Basilica. The composer César Franck was the church’s first organist, playing on the famous organ by Cavaillé-Coll.
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Table of Contents
- Sainte-Clotilde Church History
- Construction after Gau’s death
- Who completed the church basilica of Sainte-Clotilde?
- When was the church finished?
- Exterior of Sainte-Clotilde Basilica
- Saint Clotilde Basilica’s Interior
- The Transept
- The organ
- The choir, ambulatory, and chapels
- Dimensions of Sainte-Clotilde Basilica
- How to Get to Sainte-Clotilde Basilica
- Things to do Nearby
Sainte-Clotilde Church History
In 1790, the esplanade des Invalides was closed, and the Community of Penitent Daughters was set up at the corner of rue de Grenelle-Saint-Germain. Its buildings were sold as public property, and its chapel was turned into a parish church for Saint-Thomas-d’Aquinas and torn down in 1838.
As early as 1825, the city government knew that the parish of Saint-Valère needed a new church. They had to replace the very small chapel of the convent of Sainte-Valère. Yet, it wasn’t until 1827 that the Paris City Council discussed the church’s construction. They planned to build it on Bellechasse Square, on land belonging to the convent of the Dames de Bellechasse. The new church was to be called “Saint-Charles Church,” after the king at the time, Charles X.
The plan was put on hold until 1846. The name Saint-Charles was changed to Sainte-Clotilde. The architect Francois-Christian Gau then built the church at the request of the Queen of Portugal, Amélie d’Orléans.
Construction after Gau’s death
Sadly, François-Christian Gau passed away in 1854 and did not live to see the fruition of his labors. Théodore Ballu, his younger colleague and eventual successor, took over and finished the job in 1857. He changed the original ideas by adding more height to the façade. After extensive alterations to the towers, he could finally construct the steeples.
The neo-Gothic building was finished in 1857. Paris Archbishop Francois Nicolas Madeleine Morlot inaugurated the church on November 30, 1857. Saints Clotilde and Valerie were honored by the church (virgin and martyr of Limoges).
On April 29, 1888, Pope Leo XIII gave the church the status of a minor basilica to honor the 14th anniversary of Clovis’ baptism. Clovis’ second wife was Saint Clotilde. Goudji planned and built the new high altar in 2007.
Who completed the church basilica of Sainte-Clotilde?
Architect Jean-Baptiste Lassus did the completion of the church. Gustave Eiffel, who built the Eiffel Tower, also participated. They both started working on it in 1848. The building took a long time because they had to deal with many problems, like the weather, political instability, and lack of money. The building started with stones from Chatillon-Saint-Saine, Burgundy, but later, stones from other areas were used.
Gau wanted to build two steeple buildings on the church. Civil engineers told him they didn’t think the towers were strong enough to hold that much weight. As a result, he had to change his main plan and build two big towers with handrails instead of the steeple buildings he had planned.
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When was the church finished?
The church was completed in 1857. Cardinal Morlot opened it on November 30, 1857, with the names Saint Clotilde and Saint Valère to honor the memory of the Saint Valère chapel. Even though it is small, this chapel next door has been a parish church since the Revolution. Somewhere in the transept, a chapel still goes by its old name.
Exterior of Sainte-Clotilde Basilica
The Gothic style Church building dates back to the 13th century and is a stunning sight to see. It has the form of a Latin cross because Gau believed that it would make the structure appear more spacious. Typical Gothic sculptures honoring the city’s early Christian settlers adorn the façade. Clovis and Saint Clotilde statues, by artist Geoffroy Dechaume, stand guard at the front door.
Saint Clotilde Basilica’s Interior
Let’s explore the Transept! The transept is one of the most magnificent parts of Sainte-Clotilde. The architectural styles on its walls date back centuries, making it a perfect example of ancient French architecture. It also helps that they have some cool stained glass windows and other artwork throughout Sainte Clotilde Church in Paris.
An altarpiece and murals depicting incidents from Saint Clotilde’s life may be seen in a chapel in the left transept. Emile Thibaut designed the stunning rose window at the top. Saint Bathilde, the wife of Clovis II, is depicted by Mercier in a statue that stands at the entryway.
There are two main kinds of Gothic churches: aisleless and aisled. An aisleless church has a nave that runs the whole length of the building. Meanwhile, an aisled church has a nave flanked by side aisles. In a layout without aisles, the transepts go past the side walls and meet the nave at an angle of 90 degrees or less. This gives you more freedom when designing altars and other features in these areas. A layout with aisles has a longer distance between its centerlines than a layout without aisles, which means there’s even more room for art.
Have you heard? Transepts are found in almost all Gothic cathedrals because they give the church more space. This is especially helpful when building large chapels around our favorite cathedral here in Paris.
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César Franck played the Aristide Cavaillé-Coll organ in St. Clotilde. This organ is famous for its long line of outstanding composers who have served as Organiste titulaire. This instrument was made by Cavaillé-Coll in 1859, expanded in 1933, and electrified in 1962.
César Franck (1822 – 1890) was a very well-known French organist in his time. He was born in Liège and studied with his father, who was also an organist. He became an assistant professor at the Royal Conservatoire of Brussels at age 22, where he continued to teach for 28 years until 1859. He moved to Paris and began teaching at École Niedermeyer de Musique Classique et Religieuse de Saint-Germain des Prés on boulevard Saint-Germain near Luxembourg Garden. It is believed that Franck wrote some of his most famous works while living in this house from 1856 through 1866.
The choir, ambulatory, and chapels
When you walk into Sainte-Clotilde in Paris, the first thing you see is the ambulatory and the choir. Then, as you go down into the nave, you’ll see some beautiful stained glass windows by Maréchal. The beautiful Virgin and Child by Henri-Joseph de Triqueti stands at the entrance to the choir. The dove sculpture by Jacques Saint-Bris is on top of the altar. In the back of the choir, you can see the stained glass windows that show Christ with the Holy Virgin, Saint Clotilde, and Saint Valère on one side and Saint Peter, Saint Denis, and Saint Martial on the other.
Jean-Baptiste Barre made statues of Saints Clotilde and Valère to stand on top of the high altar, which was made of gilded bronze and decorated with terracotta statues of Christ and the Apostles. On either side of the altar are two beautiful candles and the signs of the lesser.
The central ambulatory leads to five separate chapels. Each chapel has its own set of paintings and stained glass windows that show events from the life of the person to whom it is dedicated.
Both the Holy Cross Chapel and the Virgin Mary Chapel look the same in terms of design and decoration. The chapels of St. Louis, St. Joseph, and St. Remi look almost exactly the same as the ones before them. The rules of the ecclesiastical cultural policy of the middle of the 19th century are to blame for this.
At that time, a lot of money and care went into making churches look cool on the inside. But it was also very controlled. Assignments were made by edict from the prefecture. The artists would show the Fine Arts Commission one or two sketches of their idea, and the commission would either approve the work or give feedback on how it could be improved. The artist started working on the piece at that point. This strict oversight and the fact that decisions were made by a single commission made sure that the production was of high quality and stayed true to its artistic goals.
Dimensions of Sainte-Clotilde Basilica
Sainte-Clotilde has a length 96 meters in length and 39 meters in width in the transept. These are just 70 meters above the tower in Notre Dame.
How to Get to Sainte-Clotilde Basilica
The Musée d’Orsay RER station is a short walk from Sainte-Clotilde. The minor basilica can also be reached by bus. The Solferino-Bellechasse, Lille-Université, Orsay Museum, and Assemblée Nationale bus stops are all just a few steps away.
You can walk from 3 Metro Stations to Saint Clotilde! The Assemblée Nationale station is a 4-minute walk away from the church. Metro Stations in Varenne and Invalides are also close by, and about a 12-minute walk will get you from there to Saint Clotilde.
If you’re traveling by bike, there are several racks nearby that can hold up to 150 bikes at the same time. Lastly, if you’re driving in Paris and looking for a place to park your car while visiting Sainte-Clotilde Basilica, keep in mind that street parking spaces are often hard to find because of heavy traffic and strict rules about how long cars can be parked there (only 15 minutes).
But if you want to avoid all of these rules, there are a lot of paid parking garages near the basilica that you can use.
Things to do Nearby
If you’re looking for something to do in the area, there are a number of options. Here are just a handful:
- The Louvre Museum is home to more than 5,000 works of art dating from antiquity through the 18th century. It’s also where you’ll find I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid, which opened in 1989 and has become an iconic part of the museum (and Paris as a whole).
- Tuileries Gardens were originally built as formal gardens for Louis XIV but today they’re open to everyone—you can take pictures here or simply enjoy some quiet time with your loved ones.
- Place de la Concorde is one of the most beautiful squares in Paris. It has several monuments, including an equestrian statue of King Louis XV. However, it is best known for being the center of the French Revolution riots in July 1789, when revolutionaries stormed this spot after storming the Bastille prison earlier that month. It is now a place where Bastille Day celebrations are held every year on July 14. (les 14 jours de retraite).
- Champs-Élysées is considered one of the world’s most beautiful streets because it has great views of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. At the end of the street is the Grand Palais, built between 1900 and 1908 and had famous paintings by artists like Claude Monet and Edgar Degas.
- Musée d’Orsay is an internationally renowned museum. Its Impressionist collection has made it famous across the world, although the museum showcases all Western art from 1848 to 1914. The collection of Musée d’Orsay spans the whole spectrum of creative expression, from paintings and sculptures to photographs and architectural models. The stunning architecture of this palace-like railway station was first shown at the 1900 World’s Fair.
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We’re so happy you found this article! Hopefully, it helped you get a better idea of what Sainte-Clotilde Basilica is all about. Do you know what else we love? Having fun with our readers and fellow travelers—that’s why we wrote this guide in the first place! We hope you enjoy your trip to Paris with this knowledge!