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St Sulpice - St Germain
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Built on the ruins of a temple of Isis, or at least a Gothic Parish church, the St Sulpice church was founded by Jean-Jacques Olier, who had it designed according to the Golden mean of sacred geometry. It was named after St Sulpicius a bishop of Bourges at the time of the famous Merovingian king Dagobert II - his feast day 17th January is a date that recurs in the Priory of Sion mysteries. The seminary of the church served as the headquarters for the mysterious 17th century secret society called the compagnie du Saint-Sacrement, which was a front for the Priory of Sion. Among the interesting items in this church are the wall fresco (battle of Saul with the Angel) painted under the supervision of Delacroix, the Maria chapel and the massive organ. A copper line in the middle of the choir symbolizes the zero meridian of Paris.

A wealthy and fashionable church on the Left Bank, Saint-Sulpice went on to host the christenings of Marquis de Sade and poet Charles Baudelaire as well as the wedding of famous author and republican Victor Hugo. During the French revolution, the Church of St-Sulpice was damaged and turned into a Temple of Victory. It was restored and redecorated in the 19th century with the help of Eugène Delacroix.

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The church of St-Sulpice was built in several phases by various architects who contributed different designs. Construction began in 1646 A.D, was expanded on a larger scale in 1670 A.D, stalled from 1678 to 1719 A.D, then resumed under Gilles-Marie Oppenordt and was mostly complete by 1745 A.D. The west front was designed by the Florentine architect Giovanni Servandoni until 1766 A.D. The north tower was built by Chalgrin in 1778-80 A.D, but construction was abandoned before the south tower was completed. The current church building, built during the mid-18th century contains the monumental organ. The seminary attached to it was notorious for its unorthodoxy style in the late 19th century.

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Known as the "Cathedral of the Rive Gauche," Saint Sulpice is one of the largest churches in Paris.
EXTERIOR & PLACE ST SULPICE: The facade is austere for a Baroque edifice and has a slightly lopsided appearance, as the south tower was never finished (the north tower rises to 73m but the south to 68m). Its Italianate design with open colonaddes looks like a cut-out from the Roman Colosseum. In the church square - Place St Sulpice - a fountain by Visconti (1844 A.D) bears sculptures of 4 bishops of the Louis XIV era: Fenelon, Massillon, Bossuet, and Flechier.

INTERIOR: Inside the church, the main attractions are the Delacroix frescoes (1855-61 A.D) in the Chapelle des Anges (Chapel of the Angels), on the right inside the entrance. Subjects include Saul wrestling with St. Michael defeating the devil, and Heliodorus being driven from the temple. More of this artist's work can be seen at Paris' Musée Delacroix. Another masterpiece of St-Sulpice is Giovanni Servandoni's Rococo-style Chapelle de la Madone (Chapel of the Madonna), with a Pigalle statue of the Virgin. The fifth chapel contains the tomb of Curé Languet de Gergy (died 1750 A.D), who founded the world's first pediatric hospital and oversaw the completion of St Sulpice. The tomb was designed by Michel-Ange Slodtz, trained in Rome. Representing the Christian's defeat of death, it shows an angel yanking back the curtain of immortality. The church's organ (completed 1781 A.D) is one of the world's largest, with 6,588 pipes, and has been played by famous musicians like Marcel Dupré and Charles-Marie Widor.

GNOMON AND OBELISK: Da Vinci Code fans are especially be interested in the meridian line or gnomon, a narrow brass strip that the monk, Silas uses as a reference point in his quest for the Grail. Look for one end near the middle of the nave on the right side, near a stone statue with a Latin inscription. From there, it runs north across the nave and transept to an obelisk next to the statue of St. Peter. The meridian line is a fascinating astronomical instrument of the 18th century, used to study the planets and determine the date of Easter each year. The sun's rays enter the church through a small opening in the south transept and rest on the line at various points throughout the year. On the winter solstice, the rays hit the obelisk; on the spring and autumn equinoxes, the bronze table. The obelisk bears a Latin inscription that doesn't quote Job's Book, but describes the use of the meridian line.

THE GRAND ORGAN: The organ tradition of St. Sulpice dates back to the mid-16th century; church archives mention renowned organists such as Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers and Louis-Nicolas Clerambault. These organists served the first parrish church of St. Sulpice. The organ case was built during early times by the church architect Chalgrin, though the organ has been replaced thereafter. This case originally contained an instrument built in 1781 A.D. by Clicquot, with five manuals, 64 stops, and a Montre of 32 ft. The organ was considered one the finest organs of the French kingdom, along with those of Saint-Martin de Tours and Notre-Dame de Paris. Thanks to the talent of its organist, Nicolas Sejan, the instrument became celebrated throughout Europe. During the 19th century, the famous organ builder Aristide Cavaille-Coll constructed a new instrument that conserved much of the previous organ, with the intention of realizing the union of the "older art with the new". Thus the Grand-Orgue of St. Sulpice, one of only three 100-stops European organs accompanied by Ulm Cathedral (Walcker) and Liverpool Cathedral (Willis), rapidly became admired throughout the world.


Saint-Sulpice plays an important role in the popular novel The Da Vinci Code. In chapters 19 and 22 of the book, an albino monk-assassin named Silas pays a visit to Saint-Sulpice, based on the information Saunière revealed to Silas at gunpoint, inside the Louvre. The monk searches for a keystone believed to unlock the secret of the Holy Grail.

The Church of Saint-Sulpice, it is said, has the most eccentric history of any building in Paris. Built over the ruins of an ancient temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis, the church possesses an architectural footprint matching that of Notre Dame to within inches. ...Embedded in the grey granite floor, a thin polished strip of brass glistened in the stone... a golden line slanting across the church's floor. The line bore graduated markings, like a ruler. It was a gnomon, Silas had been told, a pagan astronomical device like a sundial. ...Slowly, Silas let his eyes trace the path of the brass strip as it made its way across the floor from his right to left, slanting in front of him at an awkward angle, entirely at odds with the symmetry of the church. ...The strip cleaved the communion rail in two and then crossed the entire width of the church, finally reaching the corner of the north transept, where it arrived at the base of a most unexpected structure. A colossal Egyptian obelisk. ...The Teacher [had] told Silas of Saint-Sulpice's famed architectural oddity - a strip of brass that segmented the sanctuary on a perfect north-south axis. It was an ancient sundial of sorts, a vestige of the pagan temple that had once stood on this very spot. The sun's rays, shining through the oculus on the south wall, moved farther down the line every day, indicating the passage of time, from solstice to solstice. The north-south stripe had been known as the Rose Line. For centuries, the symbol of the Rose had been associated with maps and guiding souls in the proper direction. The Compass Rose - drawn on almost every map - indicated North, East, South and West.

The book goes on to explain that the original zero-longitude line passed through Paris, along this Rose Line, before being moved to Greenwich, England. Silas follows the line to the obelisk, and gets an unpleasant surprise - the instructions were actually a well-rehearsed lie designed to guard the secret of the Grail. In the designated spot, Silas finds only a reference to a verse in the Book of Job which reads "Hitherto shalt thou go and no further." Silas attacks the sole occupant of the church, Sister Sandrine, as she attempts to phone for help.

In the wake of the popularity of The Da Vinci Code, the church of Saint-Sulpice posted the following note in English:
The "meridien" line materialized by a brass inlay in the pavement of this church is part of a scientific instrument built here during the 18th century. This was done in full agreement with Church authorities by the astronomers in charge of the newly-built Paris Observatory. They used it for defining various parameters of the earth's orbit. Similar arrangements have been made, for the sake of convenience, in other large churches like the Bologna cathedral, where Pope Gregory XIII had preparatory studies made for the enactment of the present, "Gregorian" calendar. Contrary to fanciful allegations in a recent bestselling novel, this is not the vestige of a pagan temple. No such temple ever existed in this place. It was never called a "Rose Line." It does not coincide with the meridian traced through the middle of the Paris Observatory which serves as a reference for maps where longitudes are measured in degrees East or West of Paris. No mystical notion can be derived from this instrument of astronomy except to acknowledge that God the Creator is the master of time. Please also note that the letters "P" and "S" in the small round windows at both ends of the transept refer to Peter and Sulpice, the patron saints of the church, not an imaginary "Priory of Sion."

The Da Vinci Code version makes an interesting story. Nevertheless, some of the facts are not without interest, in demonstrating the cooperation of science and religion. It would not be unreasonable to expect the church was built on a pagan temple; this was a regular practice. However, it seems unlikely that the sundial, especially if known to be pagan, would have been preserved or reconstructed in the new church building.


From this place a few steps takes one to the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg, in a few minutes stroll. It is a lovely walk on a late summer evening and if you are a jogger you will fall in love with the jogging paths inside the idyllic Luxembourg Gardens. On the other side, walking along rue Bonaparte towards the direction of the Seine, brings one to the ancient church of St Germain des Près and the beautiful cafés - Les Deux Magots and Café de Flores - once the meeting point for renowned of famous intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

(please verify with the Paris Tourism office)

Place St Sulpice, 2 rue Palatine, 75006 Paris
Open: everyday 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Hours for mass:
Mon - Fri: 7 a.m, 9 a.m, 12:05 p.m, 6:45 p.m.
Sat: 7 a.m, 9 a.m, 12:05 p.m.
Sun: 7 a.m, 9 a.m, 10:30 a.m (parish mass), 12:05 p.m, 6:45 p.m.

Metro (line 4): St Sulpice
Bus Nos. 58 63 70 86 87 89 95

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