Saturday, December 25, 2010

Église Sainte-Elisabeth-du-Temple, Paris

The Église Sainte-Elisabeth (the Parish Church of St Elisabeth, 3rd arr., either metro Temple or metro République) began holding services in 1630 when it was the chapel for a convent associated with the Filles-de-Sainte-Elisabeth (Daughters of St Elisabeth), the Third Order of St Francis.  None other than Queen Marie de Médici laid the cornerstone, and the church was dedicated to St Elisabeth of Hungry in 1646 (1207-1231, the patron saint for the Third Order Franciscans).  After the ravages of the French Revolution almost 150 years later, this elegant church was sold, becoming a store selling fodder for animals.  In 1802, during the Restoration, it returned to being a church, this time serving the local parish.  Some additions were made in 1829.

Standing at the back of the nave, we see the general shape of the former convent's chapel, built in a neoclassical style with double barrel vaulting and classical but substantial archways visually separating the nave proper from its two side aisles.  I was especially struck by the beauty of the marble floor's chequered patterns using blue-black and white tiles.

Looking down a side aisle, we see this floor pattern continued, with changes introduced to reflect the spatial divisions of the archways above.

As we approach the altar from the side aisle, we see that the front of the sanctuary is a hemisphere.  The floor's pattern is therefore appropriately altered to follow this gentle contour.  On the right we see a confessional, surmounted with a carved wooden cross.  The undersides of the archways have a slight three-dimensional aspect to them.

The wrought iron gates can be closed during services or when the baptismal font is being utilized, preventing wandering visitors from distracting worshipers facing the altar or font.

Now we enter the ambulatory as it circulates behind the altar.

The following photo was taken from behind the altar, looking toward the back of the nave.  The organ was originally built by Antoine Suret (1853) and then rebuilt or altered by a series of organ makers (1955, 1976) until it was completely restored by Giroud in 1999.  It has 42 stops, 3 keyboards, and pedals for 24 low notes.

Turning around, we face the baptismal font, behind which is the Latin text from St Matthew 3.16a (translated: "And when Jesus had been baptized, as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending . . . .")  I presume that the immediate family and god parents stand within the gate and others can remain seated for the ceremony. 

Now we are looking across the baptismal font, down the side aisle, toward the back of the church.

Difficulty with moisture . . . once any building is constructed, maintenance must commence and will need to be continued for as long as the building is to endure. 

Looking up, into one of the more elaborate side chapels.

This style of glass shade for an electrified lamp can be found in other renovated French churches.