28 June 2008

L'Eglise St-Gervais-St-Protais in the Marais

A gothic-style church...

...behind a classical façade

On the way to the Trumilou restaurant with Cheryl on June 2 (can it have been that long ago already?) we walked past the St-Gervais church on the edge of the Marais neighborhood — just as I have done so many dozens of times over the years. It's official name is l'Eglise St-Gervais-St-Protais, and it's in the same neighborhood as the Trumilou restaurant and the Café Louis-Philippe.

Stained glass windows in the Eglise St-Gervais-St-Protais

The Michelin Green Guide says that Gervais and Protais were brothers and Roman military officers who were martyred during the reign of the emperor Nero. As early as the 6th century, there was a basilica on this same site dedicated to the two sainted brothers.

The windows were refurbished in the 1800s
and again over the past ten years by the city of Paris

The window pictured just above is called The Wisdom of Solomon. It shows figures dressed in French Renaissance style and in a Renaissance-style palace. The poses and gestures of the figures are remarkable, as is the detail of their costumes, and this window is an example of technical virtuosity for its time (early 1500s, Flemish school). That's what I read on this site in French.

The current St-Gervais church was built in flamboyant gothic style beginning in 1494 and was completed in 1657. The church's façade is in the French classical style and was built between 1616 and 1621. Some like it, and some don't. In 1918, a German mortar shell hit the church and caused major damage, killing more than 100 people inside. The church was repaired, then, in the 20th century. It is home to a monastic community even now.

Tall vaulting at St-Gervais-St-Protais

Some of the stained glass windows in the church, dating back to the 1500s, survived the WWI bombing incident, as did the church organ and some of the old carved stone and arches. The organ is in fact the oldest church organ in Paris, and the church has played a big role in the history of French music.

Some of the more contemporary windows at St-Gervais

The pictures in this entry include some parts of the old stained-glass windows and some windows that were obviously done as part of the 20th-century repairs to the building. The old windows feature bright panels in primary colors, red and blue, especially, whereas the newer ones use more muted, earthtone colors and abstract forms.

Be careful what you visit, because the Cadogan Guide to Paris says the Eglise St-Gervais-St-Protais isn't even worth going into. I wonder if the guidebook writers saw the same church I saw.


  1. That's a wonderful site that you gave the link to... I have heard of most all of those churches in Paris, but never visited them, so this is a great walk idea for a future Paris visit. Thanks :))

    It's really a shame how many people must go to places like Paris without really having any background knowledge about what they're visiting... and totally not appreciating anything they're seeing. I've read people's comments about Ste. Chapelle saying that it was just a bore, and, I think that comes from the "okay, it's ANOTHER fancy church with stained glass" feeling that some tourists can get.

    Well... anyway... don't get me started :))


  2. I think guidebooks are most useful on your first visit, especially if your touring time is short. After that, wandering into whatever strikes your fancy usually works really well.

    Claudia-the-commenter, where are you? I miss your comments.

  3. Ken, thanks for taking the trouble to fine-tune the colors. These photos are remarkable because of it.

    I also have wondered about Claudia from Toronto. I hope she is all right. Wasn't there a post from her son not long ago saying she'd be back? I miss her sprightly contributions. Maybe, like me, she reads this every day but just doesn't post a comment.

  4. Chris and Louise, I remember Claudia telling me a while back that she would be away from home and without Internet access for several weeks or months. I hope she will be back soon.

  5. This beautiful church combined with the two nearby restaurants you've been tempting us with will make a great day in Paris. Thank you!

    And thanks for mentioning Claudia, I've been wondering about her too. I went to university and lived in Toronto so I am always interested in her comments on that great city as well.


  6. Thank you. You're all so incredibly kind. I didn't think my comments would be missed. I'm in rehab. after conorary bypass surgery. No computer but staff is letting me use theirs' during coffee breaks. Just a short time but enough to catch up with my favourite blogs. Nurses envy the beautiful meals. Saw Ken and Claude in Paris. Will go home soon, I hope. All the best to Ken, Walt, Callie and all of you.

  7. This church is magnificent. It's a great help to travel cyber-way when you're trying to get back on your feet. I'm very fortunate that the staff understood it. Often they're as interested as I am in the blogs that I read. Thank you for your interesting posts and photos.

  8. Claudia, Welcome back, you've been missed!
    I hope your recovery progresses smoothly and rapidly. I'll bet you've recruited a dozen new readers for Ken's and Walt's blogs. :)



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