Some four years ago, I very briefly mentioned the what is mostly referred to as the Saint-Paul Church, but where the full name should be the Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church, in a post. Last week I had the opportunity to make a closer visit, together with someone who also could open the gates to the present “Lycée Charlemagne”, which used to be a Jesuit convent, of which the church was part.
Around 1580, the Jesuits started to occupy this area. A chapel was built, in 1641 replaced by the church we know today; to some extent using the Jesuit mother church, Chiesa del Gesu in Rome, as model in a baroque style. The Cardinal Richelieu held the first mass.
Originally, the Church was called after Saint Louis, but after the Revolution the nearby Saint-Paul parish church, of which we still can see some traces, was demolished and the Saint-Louis Church, became the Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church, toady thus mostly referred to as Saint-Paul. I made again a comparison between 1739 and today.
A small “parenthesis”: The Jesuit movement, Society of Jesus, was founded by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) in 1534 – at Montmartre, in what was called the Martyrium, a small downhill chapel (rebuilt). (You can visit it certain afternoons, - 11 rue Yvonne Le Tac -,not so much to see, but there is a lot of history about the place – Saint Denis, Saint Bernard, Thomas Becket….)
The Jesuit movement has had its ups and downs. The Jesuits remained in the Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church and its convent until they were expelled from France in 1763.
The facade is in heavy need of restoration.
The interior, still beautiful, lost a lot of its decorative elements during the Revolution.
Today you may notice a painting by Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) and a sculpture by Germain Pilon (1525-1590). (See previous post 1, 2, about Pilon.)
The ceiling (see top picture) is impressive. You can read the letters “IHS” (the first three letters for Jesus in Greek), the seal of the “company”, and “MA” for Maria.
Also the original organ disappeared during the Revolution and the existent one is more recent (basically 19th century). Some prominent musicians have been active in the Church, especially during the Jesuit times, e.g. Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704). His “Te Deum” was performed here in 1690, well known by Europeans, opening all Eurovision broadcasting. Another one was Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), organist in the Church.
The surrounding buildings, then the convent, thus today occupied by the well-known high-school, “Lycée Charlemagne”, date also basically from the 17th century.
Not so much left of the interior, but some parts have been saved. You can see the main staircase, with its decorated ceiling...
... and in the neighbour building some other stairs leading to...
... the apartments of the “Father Confessor”, where lived François d’Aix La Chaize (1624-1709), better known as “Père Lachaise”, confessor of Louis XIV during 34 years and who gave his name to the Père Lachaise Cemetery (see previous post). (He later, or also, lived at a Jesuit property, on the land which now is occupied by the cemetery.) A contemporary personality who “perfomed” in the Church and is buried there was Louis Bourdalou (1632-1704), particularly known as fabulous preacher, who attracted crowds, the esteem by leading contemporary and later intellectuals (Corneille, Racine, Voltaire…), often preached at Versailles… His sermons lasted long and the women obviously more or less discretely made use of “personal potties”, which in French also are named “bourdalous”. It is said that this may have given the English word “loo”.