The church displays a mixture of Renaissance and Gothic styles. The vaults of the apse were built in 1491, the chancel in 1537, the gallery in 1545 and the vaults of the nave and the transept were finished in 1580. The portal was built in 1610 and the bell tower in 1624. These front steps were featured in “Midnight in Paris” as the place where Owen Wilson was picked up by a car.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont enjoyed great prestige. It was the scene of great processions where the shrine of Sainte-Genevieve went to Notre Dame and subsequently returned to his church. It also housed the remains of Pierre Perrault, the father of the author of Tales, the painter Eustache Le Sueur and Blaise Pascal. Those of Racine and Isaac de Sacy Lemaistre were also transferred in 1711 from Port-Royal in Saint-Etienne.
The Church of St-Etienne-du-Mont stands on the site of an abbey founded by Clovis, King of the Franks (466-511) and later dedicated to St. Geneviève, the patroness of Paris. The sculpture over the door shows the stoning of Saint Stephen.
St. Geneviève was so popular in the Middle Ages that the abbey had to be enlarged to accommodate all the pilgrims. Construction on the present abbey church began in 1492 and encountered numerous delays before it was finally finished in 1626. The Church of Mount St Stephen, built between 1492 and 1655, contains Paris’ only surviving Rood Screen (1535), separating the chancel from the nave; the others were removed during the late Renaissance because they prevented the faithful assembled in the nave from seeing the priest celebrate Mass.
The new church is on a new site and the bones of St Genevieve were burned and thrown into the Seine, but the slab on which she rested is preserved in a shrine in the current church (above and to the right). The slab is in the gass encased casket (above).
A highly decorated Reliquary nearby contains all that is left of her earthly remains – a finger bone. St Geneviève, patroness of Paris, was born at Nanterre in AD 422 and turned away Attila the Hun from Paris in AD 451.
Here is the beautifully carved pulpit installed in 1651. This was created by sculptor G. Pilon from drawings by Laurant de La Hyre. Holding the pulpit is Samson with a donkey’s jawbone with a slain lion at his feet. Around the outside are Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Strength and Charity.
Here is a representation of the entombment of Jesus Christ. This in the 16th century “Chapelle du Sepulcre”. This beautiful grouping must have been sculpted by a master, but I cannot find an attribution.
The picture to the left is of the organ of Saint Etienne. The organcase of Saint Etienne du Mont dates from 1633 and was built by Jean Buron. It is a masterpiece and perhaps the most beautiful organ case in Paris and the oldest case which is preserved completely.
Pierre le Pescheur finished the instrument itself in 1636. The organ was badly damaged in a fire in 1760. Francois-Henri Clicquot rebuilt the organ in 1777, completing works carried out by Nicolas Somer, who died in 1771. Aristide Cavaillé-Coll revised the organ again in 1863. The third revision was carried out by Beuchet-Debierre in 1956. He placed the pedal windchests outside the organ and the windchest of the récit beneath the organ, replaced the old console by additional stops of the positif, brought up the stop list to 83, of which 56 are placed inside the organ case, electrified the traction, and placed a new console in the north transept gallery. In 1975, Gonzalez revoiced the instrument completely.
I don’t know what this chapel represents but there are plaques at the entrance to Blaise Pascal and Jean Racine. Like the Abbey of St-Victor, Ste-Geneviève became a celebrated seat of learning and the site of a great medieval library. St-Victor, Ste-Geneviève, and Notre-Dame were the cradles of the University of Paris. The first renowned professor at the school of Ste-Geneviève was Hubold, who lived in the tenth century. Not content with the courses at Liège, he continued his studies at Paris, entered or allied himself with the chapter of Ste-Geneviève, and attracted many pupils via his teaching. Paris-Sorbonne is often referred to as the Sorbonne or La Sorbonne after the theological college (Collège de Sorbonne) founded in 1257 by Robert de Sorbon of the historic University of Paris. This church is right next door to the Sorbonne and the distinguished intellectuals buried here are proof of the fame of of the chapel.
“Pascal’s Wager” posits that there’s more to be gained from wagering on the existence of God than from atheism, and that a rational person should live as though God exists, even though the truth of the matter can’t actually be known. He was a great mathematician and philosopher and I plan to devote a post to him.
I leave you with some beautiful photos of the ceiling and the side passages.
The lovely ceiling of the Church of St-Etienne-du-Mont.
These are the sculptures at the top of the screen on both sides. It is a beautiful church, with a long and distinguished history.