Sainte-Geneviève Abbey

St Etienne du Mont Church is located at the rear of the Pantheon.

St Etienne du Mont Church
St Etienne du Mont Church

It was since attached to the Abbaye de Sainte-Geneviève, which King Clovis founded around 510AD and dedicated to Sainte-Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris.

Clovis and his wife Clotilde were buried in the crypt of the abbey Church of Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul, next to Sainte Geneviève.

The abbey, placed under royal patronage, became the most affluent 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.

As a result, Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul Basilica was renamed Eglise Sainte-Geneviève in the 9th century because of the’ miracles that occurred at the saint’s grave.’

The abbey and its church were rebuilt and enlarged in the early 12th century to served the abbey’s servants who lived in the vicinity.

St Etienne du Mont and Ste Genevieve Church
St Etienne du Mont and Ste Genevieve Church

The Eglise Sainte-Geneviève remained their parish church until 1225.

Saint-Etienne Chapel was erected on its northern side 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 at the French Revolution.

Tragically the graves of Clovis, Clotilde and Geneviève were also 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.

St Etienne du Mont Church - Rood screen and Renaissance staircase
Rood screen and Renaissance staircase

The remaining ruins were pulled down in 1807 and 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.

A fine illustration of the evolution of French religious architecture

Saint-Etienne Chapel was rebuilt to serve the ever-growing number of parishioners, but its construction lingered over 134 years, from 1492 to 1623.

St Etienne du Mont Church - Renaissance staircase
Renaissance staircase

This resulted in an interesting mix of architectural styles!

St Etienne du Mont Church is indeed the only Parisian church whose architecture reflects the transition from Gothic to Gothic Flamboyant and French Renaissance .

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 Church great organ
Great organ

St Etienne du Mont rood screen

St Etienne du Mont Church is also the only church in Paris to have retained its rood screen.

These served as a barrier that delineated the chancel from the nave. They also served as a platform from which the priests proclaimed the Holy Word.

Most churches dismantled their rood screens during the 18th century to give their parishioners 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.

Sainte-Genevieve’s shrine

St Etienne du Mont Church contains the shrine of Sainte-Genevieve.

Sainte-Genevieve patron saint of Paris - Ste. Genevieve shrine in St. Etienne du Mont Church
Ste. Genevieve shrine in St. Etienne du Mont Church

Her original sarcophagus and relics (recovered from various French churches) were placed in a silver and gold gilded shrine were placed in the Chapelle Sainte-Genevieve.

This neo-Gothic chapel, completed in 1853, boasts a superb stained glass window that 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 patron saint of Paris.

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

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