Saint-Sulpice (50)

The church of Saint-Sulpice is one of the most known in Paris. Situated in the Place de Saint-Sulpice, it is the second tallest church in the city. It was built in honour of Saint Sulpice the Pious, and an absolute must place to visit if you are a fan of the Da Vinci Code.

The church stands over the foundations of an old 13th-century Romanesque place of worship. This church underwent enlargements until 1631. It was in 1646 when the priest Jean-Jacques Olier commissioned the construction of a new building. The works would last for more than a century. This meant that there were several architects who took part in the construction and each one had their own architectural taste.

For example, the interior bears the signature, above all, of the architect Gittard, and the façade, which in fact is unfinished, was entrusted to the painter and architect Servandoni. The south tower, also unfinished, was built by Maclaurin and the north tower by Chalgrin, which is why you will be able to see that they are not equal. 

The church is a building with two floors, the western façade of which has two rows of Doric and Ionic columns. Its measurements are 119 metres long, 57 metres wide and 30 metres high.

Inside the Gothic ground plan you will be able to appreciate how wide and well-lit Saint-Sulpice is, thanks to some very large windows that fill the whole space with light. 

Next to its entrance you will see two baptismal fonts in the form of a shell that the Republic of Venice gave to François I. These shells rest over bases that imitate rocks which were produced by the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Pigalle.

We would highlight its beautiful pulpit and side chapel, called the chapel of the Holy Angels, situated to the right of the main door in which one can admire three murals by Delacroix. These works are “Jacob fighting the angel”, “The Expulsion of Heliodorus” and “Saint Michael and the Dragon”. 

The chapel of the Virgin is also interesting, for which Pigalle sculpted the Virgin with Child. François Leymone painted the fresco of the dome and Van Loo painted the canvases on the side of the altar.

The chorus is decorated with sculptures by Bouchardon.

One of the most curious peculiarities of this church is its gnomon. This element is a column that marks the time of the day projecting a shadow on the ground, a sundial. 

Languet de Gercy, priest of Saint-Sulpice, who needed a system to control the equinoxes and be able to tell when Easter was exactly, entrusted the English astronomer and watchmaker Henry Sully. The watchmaker built a line of tin on the ground, parallel to the meridians of the Earth, which extended as far as a marble obelisk on the wall and climbing 11 metres. 

At the same time, he installed a lens system on the south window. Thanks to this invention, at midday of the winter solstice on the 21st of December, the sunlight passed by the window coinciding with the line of tin on the ground as far as the obelisk. In the equinoxes of the 21st of March and 21st of September, at midday the light touched an oval copper plate in front of the altar. This meant that Saint Sulpice was not damaged during the French Revolution, since it was considered that these elements were used to make scientific measurements.

Before this gnomon you can emulate the stars of “The Da Vinci Code” since Saint Sulpice is one of the important settings of the novel by Dan Brown and the film based on it. According to the book, Saint Sulpice was built over a temple dedicated to Isis and the gnomon marked the “Pink line” in reality, fundamental in the search for the Holy Grail. 

Saint-Sulpice has always had a leading role in many literary texts: The fight with the angel by Kauffmann, the novel Là-Bas by Huysmans or The atheist’s mass by Balzac and even appears in the work Les Miserables.

As a curiosity we can tell you that the Marquis de Sade and Baudelaire were baptised here.

Additionally, in Saint Sulpice you can enjoy the organ concerts that are regularly held. The organ dates from 1862 and is made of nearly 16,000 pipes.

Saint-Sulpice is undoubtedly well worth the visit. For some reason or other it has inspired so many works and raised so many mysteries. 

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website