Expert Insight, Breaking News, and Insider Stories on Real Estate in Paris
The hidden treasures inside l’église Saint-Eugène in Paris’s 9th arrondissement.
L’église Saint-Eugène-Sainte-Cécile, better known simply as L’église Saint-Eugène, is one of Paris’s lesser-known churches that, from the outside, doesn’t seem very impressive (it doesn’t even have a bell tower), but on the inside, conceals a plethora of historical and artistic treasures.
The first church in France built with a metal framework
Built on the site of the former Hotel des Menus-Plaisirs, a stone’s throw from Grands Boulevards, between 1854 and 1855, Saint-Eugène church is particularly noteworthy for one major reason: it is the very first church in France to be built around a metal frame. This distinction, which was highly avant-garde for the time, not only allowed the church to be erected in record time (less than 20 months) and at little cost, but it also provided the neo-gothic place of worship a much larger interior space from a standard church. As a result, the interior of Saint-Eugène is especially airy, ultra-luminous, and very colorful; the perfect home for some decorative treasures.
A host of stained glass windows, decorative details, and colors
When you enter this 9th arrondissement church, you are immediately struck by its colors: the side and central vaulted ceilings are a bright orange-yellow strewn with stars, while the vaulted ceiling of the absidal chapel of the Virgin, at the far end of the church, contrasts with its pretty blue-green, also strewn with stars. All of this immediately reminds us of the legendary blue vaulted ceiling of the Sainte-Chapelle.
These beautiful colors are accompanied by an impressive number of stained glass windows, made by master glassmakers Lusson, Gsell, and Oudinot. Once again, the Sainte-Chapelle comes immediately to mind. Although the numerous biblical scenes represented in Saint-Eugène are of course less impressive than those in the palatine chapel on the Île de la Cité, they deserve to be studied carefully. Depictions of The Last Supper, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Transfiguration, and the life of the Virgin or that of St. Eugene, all tell us the story of these religious events in a most vivid way.
In addition to its extraordinary stained-glass windows, numerous other treasures inspire awe at every turn, including 44 steel-blue cast iron columns, medieval-style paintings adorning each wall of the church, Second Empire-style chandeliers, an ornately carved staircase and pulpit in solid wood, a high altar with statuettes which, here again, strongly resembles that of Sainte-Chapelle, and a majestic organ built by Merklin and Schültze for the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris.
Remarkably, the church of Saint-Eugène Sainte-Cécile always seems to oscillate between two eras: it is, in certain aspects, very anchored in its time (the Second Empire) and at the same time resolutely medieval… an unexpected hidden treasure that is sure to charm each visitor.
Église Saint-Eugène Sainte-Cécile: 4, rue du Conservatoire, 75009