Friday, January 10, 2014

L'Église Sainte-Eustache, Paris

The Church of St. Eustache was formerly a small chapel, built in 1213 on the route from the Cité (the island on which Notre-Dame stands) to the hill known as Montmartre.  When the chapel received some relics of St. Eustache from the grand Abbey Saint-Denis, the building was dedicated to the Roman martyr, St. Eustache.  This parish church eventually needed to be enlarged as the surrounding are became more heavily populated, so King Francis I laid the cornerstone in 1532.  More than a century later, the new building was completed (1637). The church is built somewhat along the same plan as the Notre Dame Cathedral, though in a later style which Viollet-le-Duc detested.  The inside is about 100 meters in length (like a football field), 43 wide and 33 meters high. 

During the French Revolution,services were no longer held at St. Eustache, and it became a Temple of Agriculture (1793).  In the mid-1800's, the government financed extensive restoration on the structure.  There was more destruction in the disastrous war of 1870-71, which required further work.

In the 1990's, the magnificent organ was restored by the Dutch firm, Van de Heuvel .  On most Sundays, you can hear this organ be played at 5:30 (before the 6:00 Mass), free of charge.  I try my best to hear these recitals whenever I am in Paris. 

As you see these photos, you might like to imagine observing various events that took place in this church:  Mozart attending his mother's funeral, Richelieu being baptized, Molière being buried, Louis XIV taking his first communion, or Berlioz conducting his Te Deum with orchestra and choir.

We begin by emerging from the métro Porte Saint Eustache.

After entering the church, I usually go directly to the back of the nave so that I can enjoy the tremendous sense of height (33 meters or about 100 feet, floor to ceiling).  The style is Gothic, with beautifully articulated columns whose stone 'bands' help the eye appreciate visually the unseen thrust of the tremendous weight of the stone vaulting. 

The side aisles are equally majestic, though not as wide.  There are numerous shallow chapels (very dark on along the north wall but flooded with light on the south wall).  Some have their painting restored, showing gold and rich blues.








Left to right:  Jesse, David, Solomon and King Uzziah

The lovely Annunciation window portrays God the Father in the top rondelle (with a papal-like tiara).  The upper window to the left has the well-known text of the Annunciation, "Ave [then a piece of new glass which would have read 'Maria'] gratia plena dominus tecum" (Hail [Mary] full of grace, the Lord is with you.)

The upper window to the right gives Mary's response, also from Luke:  "Ecce ancilla domi[ni], fiat secund[um] verbum tuum" (Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord, may it be done according to your word.)

The open book on Mary's lap has the text from Joel 2.29, "in diebus illis effundam spiritum meum" (in those days, I will pour forth my spirit).

The white lilies in the center panel symbolize the purity of Mary, with the verse (Isaiah 35.1b):  "florebit quasi lilium" (shall flower as the lily).

The following window has the text from Micah 5.2:  "Et tu Bethlehem Ephrata parvulus es is millibus Juda; ex te mihi egradietur qui sit dominator in Israël" (And you, Bethlehem, Ephrata, are a little one among the thousands of Judah, out of you will come unto me he that is to be the ruler of Israel). 


Outside, people are briefly standing under the awning during a rain.