I have a real soft spot for religious buildings – when in Paris I seek out these marvels for their rich spiritual, cultural and architectural heritage.  I sit inside the breathtaking buildings to gaze in silence at the stories in the exquisite stained glass windows, or at the rapturous art and sculptures adorning their walls – or I listen to classical, baroque or choral music thanks to the unique sound in these buildings, and equally spectacular scenery – Whether it be a spire or a minaret, gothic or neoclassical, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or Islamic, they are all gems in their own right.    

 This doesn’t mean just visiting the usual tourist filled sites like Notre Dame, Saint Chappelle, Sacre-Coeur Basilica or Saint Germain-des-Pres – there are some far more exciting places to be discovered – religious or not, do yourself a favour and visit:

  • In the heart of Les Halles in the 1st, the huge Saint-Eustache, containing a wealth of artworks and the biggest pipe organ in France;

  • The “flamboyant” Eglise Saint Merri in the 4th, with its puzzling statue of Baphomet at the crest of the arch over one of its entrances;

  • Saint-Etienne-Du Mont, next to the Pantheon in the 5th, and its shrine of Paris’s patron saint Sainte-Genevieve;

  • The Grand Mosque in the 5th with its Moorish architecture, which has a hamman and tea room open to the public;

  • Made infamous by Dan Browns’ The Da Vinci Code, the Roman Catholic Saint-Sulpice in the 6th – a must for organ recitals – and try not to miss its gnomon and brass line in the floor;

  • Under the golden dome of Les Invalides in the 7th, the soldiers’ church – Eglise-Saint-Louis-des Invalides;

  • The Byzantine golden onion domes of the Russian Orthodox Saint-Alexandre Nevsky-Church in the 8th;

  • The interdenominational American Church also located in the 8th – the first American church established outside the United States;

  • The Grand Synagogue in the 9th which serves as the official seat of the Chief Rabbi in Paris:  look for the inscription in Hebrew over the entrance, which is a verse from Genesis 28,17 “This is none other than the House of God, the very gateway to Heaven”;

  • and further afield, the medieval Saint-Denis Basilica in the city of Saint Denis just north of Paris – the site originated as a Gallo-Roman cemetery in late Roman times, but is also of unique historical and architectural importance – its 12th century choir shows the first use of all of the elements of Gothic architecture.

Saint Chappelle

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