The Saint Paul-Saint Louis Church is considered one of the oldest Jesuit sites in Paris, and is situated in the Marais region. This aristocratic area of Paris hosted many buildings of historical and architectural importance. The church displays numerous classical elements, such as Corinthian pillars and ornamentation influenced by Roman Baroque architecture. The most prominent feature of the church is a 195-foot dome, which is best viewed while inside due to the elevation of the church partially blocking the appearance from the outside ground level. The church is designed with clean classical architectural lines that run through the nave and side aisles.
Construction of the church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis began in late 1627 when King Louis XIII laid the first stone. The completion took more than 15 years and was officially dedicated in 1641.
The church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis was designed as a monastery church by Étienne Martellange, a Jesuit friar. Its layout was based on that of the mother church of the Jesuits, the 16th-century Gesù in Rome. The sizeable octagonal dome was a first in Paris, and it would serve as inspiration for other structures, such as the Sorbonne chapel.
The letters IHS, as shown on the front of the church, is an abbreviation, the first three letters, of Jesus’ name in Greek, ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, translated into English characters. The interior design is the work of Friar Charles Turmel. The church held beautiful artwork and relics, including the hearts of King Louis XIII and King Louis XIV, but all the artifacts were destroyed during the revolution.
Some other treasures located in the church include the grand organ, built in 1867, and the famous Christ on the Mount of Olives painting by the French artist Eugène Delacroix, painted between 1824 and 1827. The main altar dates from the eighteenth century and contains fragments of the Tomb of Napoleon.
The church Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis was initially dedicated to one saint, St. Louis. In 1797, the nearby church of Saint-Paul was demolished, and the two parishes were combined. In 1802, the clock of the St. Paul church was placed into the facade of the St. Louis church, which was then renamed in honor of both St. Paul and St. Louis.
In the heart of the Marais, there is no doubt that the lovely church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis has been home to worshipers for more than a century. The church is open to the public and still holds mass each week. Visitors are welcome to tour and discover more than four centuries of church history. The church is located at 99 rue Saint Antoine, 75004 Paris, France. For more information, visit www.saintpaulsaintlouis.com.