Saint-Sulpice Church

Paris, France

Saint-Sulpice is a huge Late Baroque parish church. It recently became even more popular with tourists than usual thanks to its prominent role in the novel The Da Vinci Code.

Saint Sulpicius, the patron of the church, was a 7th-century bishop of Bourges noted for his piety and his resistance to the tyranny of the Merovingian kings. The Church of St-Sulpice was founded by the Society of St-Sulpice to replace a small Gothic church. It was built over a century in several phases, with the various architects contributing different designs.

Construction began in 1646, was expanded on a larger scale in 1670, stalled from 1678 to 1719, then resumed under Gilles-Marie Oppenordt and was mostly complete by 1745. The west front was designed by the Florentine architect Giovanni Servandoni until 1766. The north tower was built by Chalgrin in 1778-80, but construction was abandoned before the south tower was completed.

During the Revolution, the Church of St-Sulpice was damaged and turned into a Temple of Victory. It was restored and redecorated in the 19th century with the help of Eugène Delacroix.

Known as the 'Cathedral of the Rive Gauche,' Saint-Sulpice is one of the largest churches in Paris. The facade is austere for a Baroque edifice and has a slightly lopsided appearance, as the south tower was never finished. Its Italianate design with open colonaddes looks like a cut-out from the Roman Colosseum.

In the church square, a fountain by Visconti (1844) bears sculptures of four bishops of the Louis XIV era: Fenelon, Massillon, Bossuet, and Flechier.

Inside, the main attractions of St-Sulpice are the Delacroix frescoes (1855-61) in the Chapelle des Anges (Chapel of the Angels), on the right inside the entrance. Subjects include Jacob wrestling with the angel, St. Michael defeating the devil, and Heliodorus being driven from the temple. More of the artist's work can be seen at Paris' Musée Delacroix. Another masterpiece of St-Sulpice is Servandoni's Rococo Chapelle de la Madone (Chapel of the Madonna), with a Pigalle statue of the Virgin.

The church's organ (1781) is one of the world's largest, with 6,588 pipes, and has been played by musicians like Marcel Dupré and Charles-Mari Widor. St-Sulpice is still known for its music today, and frequent concerts are held here. The organ was constructed by Aristide Cavaille-Coll, the case was designed by Chalgrin, and the statues were made by Clodion. It is located at the west end of the nave and provides the setting for a violent attack in The Da Vinci Code.

Saint-Sulpice plays an important role in the popular novel The Da Vinci Code. In chapters 19 and 22 of the book, an albino monk-assassin named Silas pays a visit to Saint-Sulpice, based on instructions Saunière revealed to Silas at gunpoint in the Louvre. The monk searches for a keystone believed to unlock the secret of the Holy Grail.

Da Vinci Code fans will especially be interested in the meridian line or gnomon, a narrow brass strip that the monk uses as a reference point in his quest for the Grail. Look for one end near the middle of the nave on the right side, near a stone statue with a Latin inscription. From there, it runs north across the nave and transept to an obelisk next to the statue of St. Peter.

The meridian line is a fascinating astronomical instrument of the 18th century, used to study the planets and determine the date of Easter each year. The sun's rays enter the church through a small opening in the south transept and rest on the line at various points throughout the year. On the winter solstice, the rays hit the obelisk; on the spring and autumn equinoxes, the bronze table. The obelisk bears a Latin inscription that doesn't quote Job, but describes the use of the meridian line.

References:

Comments

Your name



Details

Founded: 1646
Category: Religious sites in France

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Kathy Nguyen (8 months ago)
Went to Christmas Day Mass here. It has a great atmosphere (from the perspective as a visitor). Very beautiful. Would recommend.
Dominic Wiker (10 months ago)
Well worth a side trip from Rue Saint Germaine. Stumbled on organ concert by chance. The acoustics didn't disappoint. Square out front has a very nice fountain
Mona MARDELLI ASSAF (11 months ago)
Saint Sulpice displays a collection of huge murals of Eugene Delacroix. It houses one of the most impressive well preserved church organs. Sunday organ concerts are held. It also features a gnomon that determines the time of the equinoxes and hence of Easter. A monument to visit without fail.
Επαμεινώνδας Τσακίρης (13 months ago)
The best camp, well organised for children and not only. Sailing lessons and many games, Great food and kind people to look after you.
Paul Dooley (16 months ago)
Beautiful church. Appeared in the Da Vinci code for the rose line. When we visited they had a copy of the 'Shroud of Turin' on display. Many Beautiful churches in Paris. This one holds its own.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.