Now that Notre Dame is closed, what are the best churches to visit in Paris?
Notre Dame is always at the top of the list when visiting Paris. It was a beautiful structure and the biggest cathedral in France.
But since the magnificent church burned on April 15th 2019, what are the alternatives for tourists? Are there other churches in Paris worth visiting?
Of course – there are plenty!
Paris has many stunning, historic churches and cathedrals, even though it is a secular country now. These churches are remnants of the legacy of Christianity, specifically Catholicism in Paris.
Here is a list of 12 Paris churches that you can visit as an alternative to Notre Dame (at least until it is rebuilt!).
1. St. Sulpice Church
St. Sulpice Church is the second biggest Parisian church, next to Notre Dame Paris. It is serving as Paris’ main cathedral while Notre Dame is still under-reconstruction.
This church is on the remains of an 11th-century church. It took many years to build this structure from 1646 to 1870. Just like other Paris churches, it took a long time to finish the construction of this building because of interruptions by many historical events.
This church has an elaborate and unique sundial built by clockmaker Henry Sully in 1728. A gnomon, an astronomical measurement device, performs the time-telling task of the sundial. A hole in one of the cathedral’s stained glass windows allows light to enter and cast a shadow through the gnomon.
This building has many elaborate designs and beautiful works of art. It also has a long history of talented and famous organists. This church is widely known these days as a church featured in Dan Brown’s international best selling book, The Da Vinci Code.
Like Notre Dame Paris, St.-Sulpice Church also had a fire on March 17, 2019. Luckily, firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control without it damaging the beautiful structure.
2. Sacre Coeur Basilica
Another church in Paris that you can visit is Sacre Coeur Basilica. This church building is the most visited church next to Notre Dame and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Paris.
The location of this church was already a place of worship even before the construction of the church building. People were worshipping in this location, but they practiced paganism and not Christianity. There were also Gallo-roman temples in the spot, dedicated to Mercury and Mars. People chose this location to worship because it is the highest point in the city, the Montmarte hill, and they feel that they are closer to heaven when they worship here.
‘Sacré-Cœur’ means Sacred-Heart in English, referring to the heart of Jesus and his marvelous love for humanity. This church differs in architectural design to the Gothic style of Notre Dame Paris because the architectural design of this church is Romanesque- Byzantine by its architect, Paul Abadie. Lucien Magne continued the project until 1914 when Paul Abadie died in 1894.
The circular gallery inside the dome, at the top of this church, is accessible to the public. You need to climb 237 steps to enjoy the spectacular view of the entire city. You can see the Eiffel Tower from this circular gallery.
3. eglise St Germain des Pres
Église St-Germain is Paris’ oldest church and was the principal place of worship in Paris until the completion of Notre Dame.
This church was built in 512 AD as requested by Saint Germain, who became the bishop of Paris. This building holds important relics and became the final resting place of the Merovingian kings.
Vikings ransacked and destroyed the church by fire in the 9th century. Then it was reconstructed in the year 1000 and dedicated in 1163. The church grew and changed as time passed by, with additional buildings and abbeys.
The church was renovated in the 19th century. The look of the church now is the result of the restoration work of architect Victor Baltard and painter Jean-Hippolyte. It wasn’t changed to look modernized, but it was rather restored to its former glory.
At the exterior of the church, you will find one of France’s oldest bell towers. There were formerly two other towers, but they did not survive during the French revolution. The interior of this Paris church is a combination of different architectural designs, influenced by continued renovations over the years.
There are also several fascinating tombs of notable people in this church, including those of René Descartes and John II Casimir Vasa.
4. La Madeleine
One of the most beautiful churches in Paris is La’Madeleine. This church looks like a Roman temple. It took a very long time to finish since the start of its construction in 1764 since, like many other constructions of a similar magniture, its building process was frequently disturbed by the events of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era. Many attempted to turn it into a public library, a parliament, or a stock exchange; it was finally consecrated as a church in 1845.
Fifty-two Corinthian columns, each 20 meters high, encircle this magnificent church. There is a sculpture by Lamiere in this Parish church, namely, The Last Judgement, while the bronze doors of this church represent the Ten Commandments.
The inside of the church is adorned with marble, gold, and beautiful statues and artworks by notable artists. There is so much to see in La Madeleine.
5. Cathedrale Saint Alexandre Nevsky
Paris churches are different from one another; each one is unique. Like Cathédrale Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky, which is a Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the 8th arrondissement. Entirely distinct to the ones we’ve been discussing.
This Paris church was built to address the rising Russian population in Paris during the 19th century.
This magnificent building was the first Russian Orthodox place of worship in France. It is where the famous artist Pablo Picasso got married to his wife Olga Khokhlova on 12 July 1918.
6. Saint Augustin church
Another church in Paris that is as beautiful as Notre Dame is Saint-Augustin church. Saint-Augustin church boasts an eclectic style, combining Gothic and Romanesque designs, it was built between 1860 to 1868. The façade of this big church features a beautiful artwork created by François Jouffroy, showing Jesus with his disciples above four evangelists.
Of a particular note are the stained glass windows inside the building that depict bishops and martyrs of the first century. You will also see cast-iron columns and polychrome angels inside this exceptional church.
7. Sainte Chapelle
There are a lot of Gothic style churches in Paris, and one exceptional example is Sante-Chapelle. This church is considered the highest achievement of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture.
This royal chapel used to be the residence of the Kings of France until the 14th century. Saint-Chapelle church served as the official parish church for all the people in the palace, which used to be the government of France. The king is now recognized as a Saint by the Catholic church; his title is Saint Louis.
The building endured a lot of historical events, wars, and revolutions until it was consecrated to be a chapel on April 26, 1248. It is famous for its stained glass windows and has the broadest range collection of 13th century stained glasses in the world.
Saint-Chapelle is indeed a Paris church worth visiting.
8. Saint Etienne du Mont
Notre Dame of Paris may be glorious to behold, but so is Saint-Etienne du Mont. In this church, you will find the shrine of St. Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. You will also find the tombs of many famous people, such as Blaise Pascal and Jean Racine. There is a lot of artwork to see in this church, and it is definitely worth seeing with your own eyes.
The sanctuary was built between 1492 and 1626 to support the growing population of churchgoers of St. Geneviève’s adjacent abbey and St. Étienne’s parish. The exterior of the building consists of three superimposed Renaissance pediments flanked by a 16th-century tower.
Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is renowned for its unique interior because it has a rood screen (jubé): the only one in Paris.
9. Saint Eustache Church
Churches in Paris host a massive variety of beautiful architecture and amazing history. One special example is Saint-Eustache Church. This church is in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, situated near Paris’ historical and medieval marketplaces, namely Les Halles and Montorgueil. This church boasts a mixture of multiple architectural styles, with a Gothic style in the exteriors and Renaissance and classical specifics in the interior.
The church was built in 1532 and restored in 1840. It contains a wealth of artworks from statues, stained glasses, and little details that can inside. It also has the biggest pipe organ in France, and it hosts classical music performances all year round with symphony orchestras, choral ensembles, and individual performers.
It has been the church of merchants of Les Halles and nobles from Louver and Palais Royal for centuries. It hosted the baptism of famous people such as Cardinal Richelieu, Moliere, and Madame Pompadour. This church was also where Louis XIV had his first communion.
This notable historical relevance and accessible location made it one of the most visited churches in Paris.
10. St. Denis Basilica
Another church that is as remarkable as Notre Dame is St.-Denis Basilica. St.Denis Basilica is in the north of Paris. This church became a royal burial place under the Carolingians and is considered as one of the first examples of Gothic architecture in France and became a model for the churches in the French Gothic style.
This building is regarded as a museum of sculptures since it features over 70 statues and monumental tombs of notable people from the Renaissance period. It contains the most extensive collection of funerary sculpture from the 12th to 16th centuries, displaying sculptors of Kings and Queens that ruled in France.
St.-Denis Basilica became an architectural model for cathedrals in European countries. Abbot Suger rebuilt parts of the church using pioneering structural and decorative features. This restoration made St.-Denis Basilica the first truly Gothic building.
11. St. Gervais St Protais Church
St.-Gervais-St-Protais Church is one of the most celebrated churches in Paris. This building is an example of a beautiful combination of classic, gothic, and renaissance building styles in singular architectural structure.
These different styles used in the building are yet again results of the duration of the construction of the church. It took over 150 years to finish this magnificent church. Construction started in 1494 and ended in 1657 under the hands of different architects at different times.
The church is dedicated to Saints Gervasius and Protasius, two Christian martyrs from Milan that were killed by Nero. This church is the first parish church on the right bank of Paris. That’s why this church was historically known as having a large number boatmen and fishermen in attendance.
12. St Paul St Louis Church
Surely by now, you realize that there are a lot of outstanding Churches in Paris, and of course, St-Paul-St-Louis Church should not be forgotten.
This church was built and dedicated to St. Louis (King Louis IX) but was rededicated to St. Paul in 1802, in honor of the Church of St. Paul. This church was built to replace Chapelle Saint-Paul-des-Champs in 1125, for it has become too small for the growing population of attendees.
The architecture of the Church of Saint-Paul Saint-Louis is influenced by the Church of the Gesù in Rome. Its architectural style is a result of a beautiful blend of French and Italian Baroque style.
The church was designed mainly for preaching. This purpose is reflected in the dimensions of the church and the way that it is constructed. Several prominent preachers came here before the abolition of the Jesuit Order in 1762. Its remarkable façade contained multiple Gothic and Dutch elements.
Saint-Paul Saint-Louis has a collection of post-French Revolution religious works of art. Prominent paintings such as the Jesus in torment in the Garden of Olives by Delacroix and the Crucifixion of Jesus rescued from the Bastille prison chapel, as well as works such as La Vierge del Douleur by Germain Pilon, can be found in this church.