Paris - Ile De France
St Etienne du Mont Church - Ste Genevieve Shrine
St Etienne du Mont Church is located at the rear of the Pantheon.
It was once part of the abbey King Clovis founded around 510AD on the Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève, which was then still known by its Roman name Mount Leucotilius.
Clovis was not only the first king of France, but also the first to convert to Christianity after marrying Princess Clotilde.
Clovis and Clotilde were buried in the crypt of the abbey Church of Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul, next to Sainte-Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris.
The Abbaye Sainte-Geneviève became the most affluent abbeys of Paris and attracted pilgrims from all over the kingdom.
They indeed came to worship the golden shrine that contained the relics of Sainte-Geneviève.
Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul Basilica was renamed Eglise Sainte-Geneviève during the 9th century because of the miracles that started to occur at the saint's grave.
The abbey and its church were rebuilt in the early 12th century.
The abbey’s servants lived near the abbey and the hamlets turned into villages.
The Eglise Sainte-Geneviève was their parish church until 1225, when Saint-Etienne Chapel was erected on its northern side in order to serve their ever-growing numbers!
The shrine of Sainte-Geneviève was transferred to this new chapel, which was enlarged between the 15th and 17th century.
The abbey (except St Etienne du Mont Church and a few outbuildings) was sadly destroyed during the French Revolution and the graves of Clovis, Clotilde and Geneviève desecrated.
The ghosts of Ste Genevieve Abbey in the Lycée Henri IV
The Lycée Henri IV, the first state school in France, was built in 1796 on the site of the abbey.
The remaining ruins were pulled down in 1807 and the Rue Clovis open on the site of Sainte-Geneviève Church.
All that is left of the church is the bell-tower, now known as Tour Clovis.
However, a few vestiges of the abbey were rescued.
The refectory (in Rue Clotilde) indeed escaped demolition and was later converted into a chapel for the school.
The Gothic cellars and the 15th century Cloisters were restored in 1744.
Two 18th century staircases, the library founded in 1624 and the Cabinet of Medals also escaped destruction.
All these vestiges, today located in the ground of the school, are listed Historical Monuments.
St Etienne du Mont Church
Saint-Etienne Chapel was entirely rebuilt and upgraded to a church in order to adapt to the ever-growing number of parishioners.
However, its construction took place over 134 years, from 1492 to 1623!
This resulted in an interesting mix of architectural styles!
The Gothic Flamboyant chancel, the apse and bell-tower were completed in 1540.
The Renaissance nave was built in 1580.
The first stone of the unusual facade, adorned with a rosette and three different pediments, was laid in 1610.
St Etienne du Mont Church was eventually consecrated in 1626!
The bright interior boasts impressive dimensions and an eclectic decoration where Gothic Flamboyant dominates.
Its exceptional architectural features include carved panels and a series of superb 16th and 17th centuries stained-glass windows in the ambulatory and the chancel.
The organ was built and carved in 1631 and is the oldest in Paris.
Finally, the pulpit, which dates from 1651, is a superb illustration of Baroque art.
St Etienne du Mont rood screen
St Etienne du Mont Church is also the only church in Paris to have retained its rood screen.
Rood screens served as a barrier in order to separate the chancel from the nave.
It also served as a platform from which the priests proclaimed the Holy Word.
Most churches dismantled their rood screens during the 18th century so their parishioners could enjoy a better view of the liturgical ceremonies.
The rood screen of St Etienne du Mont has a Gothic structure but is adorned with a superb Renaissance balustrade.
Two staircases wrap around pillars and serve both the rood screen and an upper corridor.
St Etienne du Mont Church contains the shrine of Sainte-Genevieve.
Her original sarcophagus and various relics (recovered from various French churches) were placed in a silver and gold gilded shrine located in a lateral chapel.
The neo-Gothic Chapelle Sainte-Genevieve was completed in 1853.
It boasts a superb stained glass window which depicts the saint’s life.
Annual religious celebrations still take place between the 3rd and 11th January in order to honour the memory of the saint!
Directions: 5th District - At the rear of the Pantheon
Station: Luxembourg on RER B
Coordinates St Etienne du Mont Church: Lat 48.846539 - Long 2.348090