Spires and towers pierce the sky of Paris in every quartier. You may know that they're attached to the famous and historical churches and cathedrals that are scattered throughout the city. But you may not know that, besides their spiritual significance, the historic churches of Paris are one of the most-loved venues for classical music.
The oldest church is found in the quartier of St Germain des Prés, or St Germain of the Fields, so named because, at the time, the church was set well beyond the walls of the city. A church of that name has been on the same site since the mid-6th century. During the French Revolution (remember that?) the churches were secularized and used for meeting places or even warehouses. Napoleon (remember him?) re-established the churches and cathedrals to religious use and restored, with a few exceptions such as The Panthéon, which has remained a secular shrine to great men (and a couple of women) of France.
We like to fill up our days when we're in Paris. That's why our favorite way to visit the city's Gothic churches is by attending one of the classical music concerts that are regularly performed in them. That way we sort of double the treat, since we get to enjoy the stunning architecture while listening to some of the best musicians in Paris playing classic pieces. Over the years we've discovered the easy way to buy tickets in advance. (It's also the only way to guarantee your place.)
One of the great churches of the world,Notre Dame Paris dates back to 1160 when Bishop de Sully began construction on the "Parisian church of the kings of Europe".
Two hundred years and a half-dozen architects later, the cathedral as we know it today was completed. The flying buttresses and gargoyles are familiar to millions of visitors. Learn all about this magnificent cathedral, the best times to visit, how to beat the line-ups for the bell towers, and how to attend a concert.
La Sainte-Chapelle, or The Holy Chapel, is on Ile de la Cité and was built in the courtyard of the Royal Palace by Louis IX. Unusual for Pais churches, it was completed in a relatively short period, construction started in 1240 and finished in 1248. Inside, the church appears weightless and airy, and is one of the most amazing examples of Gothic architecture. The stained glass walls are among the most magnificent anywhere in the world.
La Sainte-Chapelle is also our readers' favourite venue for classical music in Paris. We'll tell you more about this stunning church and how to reserve your seats for a concert.
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L'Église de la Madeleine owes its existence to some of France's last kings and also its first emperor. In the end it was Napoleon who decreed that a memorial to his Grand Army would be built on the place at the top of Rue Royale, modeled on Greek temples of antiquity.
The history of La Madeleine was by no means straightforward after that It took years and political upheavals to complete. Today, as well as a church, it's a favoured venue for classical music.
The newest church on this list, Basilique du Sacré-Cœur was completed in 1914 and has become one of the best known Paris churches due to its prominent location and brilliant white color. There's no better view of Paris than from atop the steps of Sacre-Coeur. In fact, because it's built on the hill of Montmartre, it's the highest point in Paris (higher than the Eiffel Tower).
L'Église Saint-Eustache is another church that took a century to build. Completed in 1632, this Gothic masterpiece was located in the midst of the famous Paris food market, Les Halles, where for centuries butchers, fishmongers, shops, restaurants, and ordinary Parisians bought their food. In fact, the church is still sometimes referred to as Saint-Eustache Les Halles.
The market is long gone, replaced now by a sort of convention center, but the church remains, as majestic as ever. The south facade is a mind-boggling example of Gothic design and engineering. The interior arches seem to touch the sky. During the French Revolution, Saint-Eustache found use as a barn and storage shed. Today it's restored to its original magnificence. Rarely, but occasionally, classical music is performed here.
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In the heart of the busy 6th Arrondissement quartier of Saint-Germain is this unexpected oasis of calm. Église Saint-Sulpice is huge, with an architectural history that stretch over three centuries. Here you'll find Delacroix's only major mural, Jacob Wrestling the Angel, an 18th century gnomon (sort of a sundial), and a lovely place with one of the most pleasing fountains in the city.
There are other fascinating historic churches in Paris — many of them from the Gothic era of architecture, and some of those also host classical music concerts on a regular basis.
We've already mentioned the oldest church in this list, St Germain des Prés, and that may be familiar to you. But there's also Saint Ephrem, Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, and Église Saint-Sulpice with its two mismatched towers and its magnificent fountain.
• Notre Dame Cathedral…
• La Sainte Chapelle…
• Église de la Madeleine…
• Sacre-Coeur Paris…
• St-Eustache Paris…
• Église Saint-Sulpice…
• Other Historic Churches…
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