Saturday, December 24, 2011

Église Saint-Merri, Paris

The parish church of Saint Merri is located in the 4th arrondissement in Paris on the Rue de Rivoli (near the métro Hôtel de Ville and the Georges Pompidou Centre).  The Abbot Méric (died 700 and canonized a little over a century later) was viewed as the patron saint of the right bank, the business district of the city.  His name was eventually contracted to "Merri".

What initially attracted me to Saint-Merri was its unusual open-door policy.  Facing one of the city's busiest streets, both of the front doors frequently remain wide open during the week, inviting those with weary feet to enter, pause, rest, enjoy, and reflect.  This is what all churches and temples ought to do.  It is so satisfying to stand at the back of the apse (completed 1552, look down the long nave (completed 1520) toward the majestic organ pipes at the back, and see the open doors admitting both people and light into the church.

The organ was completed in 1650 and refurbished and enlarged at various times, most recently in 1947.  Somehow, it would seem that the basic organ and at least some of the art survived the ravages of the French Revolution.  The church was transformed into a factory for the manufacture of saltpeter in 1793, and before being rededicated as a place of worship (1803).

A modest altar-table has been placed forward at the crossing of the transept (completed 1526).  To this flamboyant Gothic style (built in the Renaissance) have been added various sculptures in the Baroque style, including the brilliant burst of golden clouds over the high altar at the back of the choir.

The rose window in the north transept.

One never tires of the beautiful geometric patterns of marble used in the magnificent apse.

I have never seen the high altar be used, but it would seem appropriate on the patron's feast day.