St-Sulpice (Paris)

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Saint-Sulpice, choir from the northeast
inside view
First facade design by Servandoni, around 1732

Saint-Sulpice is a Catholic parish church in the Paris district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (in the 6th arrondissement ). It is the holy Sulpicius II. Bourges as patron ordained .

The church is 118 m long and 57 m wide. With these dimensions, it is only slightly shorter than the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral and thus the second largest church in the city. Among the naves are several crypts , whose bases are together almost as large as the base of the church itself.

Saint-Sulpice was chosen as a burial site by some of the largest noble families in France (including the Condé , Conti and Luynes families ). The composer and long-time organist of St. Sulpice, Charles Marie Widor , is also buried in the crypt . Famous people were baptized and married in the Church. B. Victor Hugo and Heinrich Heine .

Significant personalities from the St. Sulpice seminary such as B. Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord emerged.

The main organ of the church, famous around the world and a masterpiece by François-Henri Clicquot and Aristide Cavaillé-Coll , which has largely been preserved in its original state , was one of the largest in Europe at the time it was built and was or is played by famous musicians.


The Romanesque , several times expanded previous building from the 12th century was largely demolished in the 17th century. In 1646 the foundation stone was laid for a new building according to the plans of Christophe Gamard, in 1655 Louis Le Vau took over the construction management. After his resignation, Daniel Gittard presented a design that was implemented from 1660 onwards. As early as 1678, a lack of money interrupted the construction work. Only the choir with access and chapels as well as the north transept and the crossing piers were finished at that time. The nave , crossing and the southern arm of the transept were built by Gilles-Marie Oppenordt between 1719 and 1736 .

Saint-Sulpice is a three-aisled basilica with an ambulatory choir and a transept barely protruding over the line of flight . Between the buttresses there are chapels , below which the Lady Chapel ( Chapelle de la Vierge ) stands out at the choir head. The central nave has two zones: below pillar arcades with a Corinthian order of pilasters in front , above the vaulting zone with a longitudinal barrel including stitch caps for the upper cladding windows. The overall disposition is to be understood as a reduction of the scheme of the Gothic Paris Cathedral Notre-Dame , conveyed via the parish church of St-Eustache de Paris . Detail forms in the older components (crown-rib-like profile, keystone-like rosettes) are also reminiscent of Gothic models.

The western double tower facade, although it was built at the time of the construction work on the nave , belongs to a newer style. The theater architect Giovanni Niccolò Servandoni , a Florentine of French descent, won a competition in 1732 . His design gained more and more ancient Roman size and already points to early classicism , a tendency that Jean-François Chalgrin continued with his design for new tower open floors (only north tower realized).

Servandoni had actually become famous in Paris with his baroque stage and festival decorations, which also took him to Lisbon , Dresden and London . And a similar tendency towards theatrical display of magnificence can also be found here, albeit in a somewhat ambiguous version. What works on a stage doesn't necessarily work on a church facade. Servandoni has by far not achieved what is so convincing in other large baroque churches. The facade of St-Sulpice is proportionally unbalanced. The towers do not combine the two large colonnaded halls .

In 1642, Jean-Jacques Olier (1608–1657) founded the Congregation of the Sulpizians , a Catholic order, and the St. Sulpice seminary , with the main purpose of academic and spiritual education for priests, which still exists today. The seminary and the school of Saint-Sulpice were the spiritual centers of the French Revolution . Of them are Sieyès and Talleyrand , leaders of the revolution emerged.

During the revolution, the church was called the Temple of Victory ( Temple de la Victoire ), which is still remembered today by a sign above the central door of the main entrance, but shortly afterwards it was looted and damaged. As part of the reconstruction work, the first south chapel was decorated with two frescoes by Eugène Delacroix from the years 1858 to 1861, which show Jacob's battle with the angel and the story of Heliodorus . It is noteworthy in this context that Delacroix was possibly a son of Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord , who had been trained in the St. Sulpice seminary.

Since the fire of Notre-Dame in 2019 , St-Sulpice has temporarily performed the de facto function of a cathedral (with regard to diocesan liturgical events).


Saint-Sulpice has two organs : the large main organ on the west gallery and a choir organ. In Saint-Sulpice there are regular organ concerts ( Auditions des Grandes Orgues à Saint Sulpice ) on Sundays around 12:00 noon (following the high mass, which is introduced with a 15-minute “prelude” on the main organ from 10:45 am ).

Main organ

The main organ built in the current shape of Cavaillé-Coll . Widor was the organist there for 64 years.

The main organ goes back to an instrument that was built by François-Henri Clicquot from 1776 to 1781 and already had a remarkable 64  stops on five manuals and pedal . The unique monumental organ case was designed by the architect Jean-François Chalgrin .

From 1834 extensive renovations were carried out by Daublaine-Callinet until the organ was inaugurated again in April 1846 with 64 registers. However, the result of the work was not satisfactory. Therefore, from 1855 onwards , Aristide Cavaillé-Coll initially took over the tuning and maintenance work and finally rebuilt the instrument between 1857 and 1862 (using around 40 percent of the pipework from Clicquot and Callinet). During this time (1850–1863) , Georg Schmitt from Trier was organist at Saint-Sulpice.

The instrument was inaugurated in April 1862 with 100 stops on five manuals and pedal and was one of the largest organs in Europe. Today it is considered to be one of the main works of the French-Romantic organ building, whereby it harmoniously combines numerous originally preserved registers from the Baroque period with pipes from the 19th century in a unique way.

Since then the organ has only been slightly modified: in 1903 Charles Mutin exchanged two registers; in addition, the partial work "Bombarde" (originally assigned to the 4th manual) was moved as "Solo" to the 5th  manual and the "Récit expressif" from the 5th to the 4th manual; 1933-1934 the Société Pleyel Cavaillé-Coll added two pedal registers (Principal 16 ′ and 8 ′). In the seventies the worn pedal keyboard was replaced and the Plein jeu harmonique III-VI in the Positif was replaced by a high-lying neoclassical mixture; the Plein jeu harmonique was stored and was preserved. Between 1989 and 1991, the now listed instrument ( Monument Historique ) by Jean Renaud from Nantes underwent extensive restoration and general cleaning. The Plein jeu harmonique was reinserted in its original place in the positif.

The original preserved condition of the great organ of Saint-Sulpice is the titular organist Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wély (1863–1869), Charles-Marie Widor (1870–1933), Marcel Dupré (1934–1971), Jean-Jacques Grunenwald (1973 –1982) and Daniel Roth (since 1985), who respected their instrument and protected it from changes. The Association pour le rayonnement des orgues Aristide Cavaillé-Coll de l'église Saint-Sulpice (Paris) , chaired by Daniel Roth, has been campaigning for the inclusion of the Great Organ in the UNESCO World Heritage for years .

Many well-known composers, including Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy , Franz Liszt and Anton Bruckner , got to know and played this instrument. The organ currently has 102 registers (approx. 7,000 pipes) on five manuals and pedal. The play and key action mechanically (with Barker machines ).

I Grand-Chœur C – g 3
Jeux de combinaison:
01. Salicional 08th'
02. Octave 04 ′
03. Cornet V (from d 1 ) (C)
04th Fittings IV (C)
05. Cymbals VI (C)
06th Plein jeu IV (C)
07th Bombard 16 ′0
08th. Basson 16 ′
09. Première trompette 08th' (C)
10. Deuxième trompette 08th' (C)
11. Basson 08th'
12. Clairon 04 ′ (C)
13. Clairon doublette 02 ′
II Grand-Orgue C-g 3
Jeux de fond:
14th Principal Harmonique 16 ′ (C)
15th Montre 16 ′ (C)
16. Bourdon 16 ′ (C)
17th Flûte conique 16 ′
18th Montre 08th' (C)
19th diapason 08th'
20th Bourdon 08th' (C)
21st Flûte harmonique 08th' (C)
22nd Flûte traversière 08th'
23. Flûte a pavilion 08th'
24. Fifth 5 130 (C)
25th Prestant 04 ′ (C)
26th Duplicate 02 ′ (C)
III positive C-g 3
Jeux de fond:
27. Violon bass 16 ′
28. Quintadon 16 ′
29 Salicional 08th' (C)
30th Viole de Gambe 08th'
31. Unda maris 08th'
32. Quintaton 08th'
33. Flûte traversière 08th'
34. Flûte douce 04 ′
35. Flûte octaviante 04 ′
36. Dulciane 04 ′
Jeux de combinaison:
37. Fifth 2 23
38. Duplicate 02 ′
39. Tierce 1 350 (C)
40. Larigot 1 15 (C)
41. Piccolo 1' (C)
42. Plein jeu harm. III-VI
43. Basson 16 ′
44. Trumpets 08th' (C)
45. Baryton 08th' (C)
46. Clairon 04 ′ (C)
IV Récit expressif C – g 3
Jeux de fond:
47. Quintaton 16 ′ (C)
48. diapason 08th'
49. Bourdon 08th' (C)
50. Violoncello 08th'
51. Voix céleste 08th'
52. Prestant 04 ′ (C)
53. Duplicate 02 ′ (C)
54. Fittings V. (C)
55. Cymbals IV (C)
56. Basson-Hautbois 08th' (C)
57. Cromorne 08th' (C)
58. Voix humaine 08th' (C)
Jeux de combinaison:
59. Flûte harmonique 08th'
60. Flûte octaviante 04 ′
61. Dulciana 04 ′
62. Nazard 2 230 (C)
63. Octavine 02 ′
64. Cornet V (C)
65. Bombard 16 ′
66. Trumpets 08th'
67. Clairon 04 ′
Machine à grêle
V Solo C – g 3
Jeux de fond:
68. Bourdon 16 ′0 (C)
69. Flûte conique 16 ′
70. Principal 08th' (C)
71. Bourdon 08th' (C)
72. Flûte harmonique 08th'
73. Violoncello 08th'
74. Viol 08th'
75. Keraulophone 08th'
76. Prestant 04 ′ (C)
77. Flûte octaviante 04 ′
Jeux de combinaison:
78. Fifth 5 130
79. Octave 04 ′
80. Tierce 3 15
81. Fifth 2 23
82. Septième 2 27
83. Octavine 02 ′
84. Cornet V (C)
85. Bombard 16 ′
86. Trumpets 08th' (C)
87. Clairon 04 ′ (C)
88 Trumpet coudée à forte pression 8th'
Pedale C – f 1
Jeux de fond:
89. Principal 32 ′0 (C)
90. Principal 16 ′
91. Contrebasse 16 ′ (C)
92. Soubbasse 16 ′
93. Principal 08th'
94. Flute 08th' (C)
95. Violoncello 08th'
96. Flute 04 ′ (C)
Jeux de combinaison:
097. Bombard 32 ′0 (C)
098 Bombard 16 ′ (C)
099 Basson 16 ′
100. Trumpets 08th' (C)
101. Ophicléide 08th' (C)
102. Clairon 04 ′ (C)
  • Couple:
    • Normal coupling: I / II, II / I, III / I, IV / I, IV / III, V / I, I / P, II / P, IV / P
    • Sub-octave coupling: I / I, II / II, III / III, IV / IV, V / V
  • Remarks:
(C) = Original pipe material from 1781 (Clicquot)

Choir organ

View of the choir organ
Company plaque from Aristide Cavaillé-Coll on the console of the main organ in Saint-Sulpice

The choir organ was built in 1858 by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll using pipe material from Daublaine Callinet (1847). In 1868 maintenance was carried out by Cavaillé-Coll. In the early 20th century, minor changes were made by Charles Mutin . In 1981 maintenance was carried out by J. Picaud. The instrument has mechanical sliding chests with 21 registers on two manuals and pedal. The disposition :

I Grand Orgue Cf 3
01. Bourdon 16 ′
02. Montre 08th'
03. Bourdon 08th'
04th Salicional 08th'
05. Flûte harmonique 08th'
06th Prestant 04 ′
07th Octave 04 ′
08th. Fifth 2 23
09. Duplicate 02 ′
10. Plein jeu IV
11. Basson 16 ′
12. Trumpets 08th'
13. Clairon 04 ′
II Récit C – f 3
14th Flûte Traversière 08th'
15th Viole de Gambe 08th'
16. Voix Celeste 08th'
17th Flute Octaviante 04 ′
18th Octavine 02 ′
19th Cor anglais 08th'
20th Trompette harmonique 08th'
21st Clairon 04 ′
Pedale C – f 1
22nd Soubasse (= No. 1) 16 '



Mittagsweiser (la Méridienne): noon line made of brass on the floor and, because the church interior is too small, ascending on an obelisk ( gnomon ) in the background

In 1727, the English watchmaker Henry Sully set up a noon wise man (Méridienne) in the church on behalf of the priest Languet de Gercy . At midday, sunlight falls through a hole in the south wall onto a brass line on the floor and, as an extension, onto an 11-meter-high obelisk ( gnomon ), see adjacent picture. The line is scaled with calendar data, so that in addition to the moment of noon, calendar and astronomical data are also displayed: the summer solstice in the picture in front, the equinoxes (beginning of spring and autumn) near the altar , the winter solstice on top of the obelisk.

Worth knowing about

In Dan Brown's famous novel Da Vinci Code , the action takes place partly in the church of Saint-Sulpice, where the gnomon (that is, the obelisk, which is not used here as a shadow thrower, but only serves to extend the line of the sun) as " pagan astronomical device of Egyptian origin ”, which may seem a little exaggerated and not entirely correct, or at least one could object to it. The obelisk shows a clear Egyptian influence, but it can be assumed that it was hardly used in ancient Egypt, at least it would be very difficult to prove. In addition, it is easy to see that its shape does not entirely correspond to the Egyptian variant and that it has undergone a certain modification. For example, there is a small ball on its tip. The principle itself (namely that of a sundial to determine the noon line), on which this entire facility is based, probably has its roots in ancient Babylon. In any case, the Hellenes (the ancient Greeks) are said to have taken it over from the Babylonians.

Furthermore, it is said about the course of the sun line on the ground that this serves to display the Paris meridian , but this runs a little further away in an easterly direction. This distance is approx. 118 meters, which is pretty much the total length of the church. This at least allows the assumption that with the help of this length the former prime meridian could be determined very precisely from the given noon line and possibly influenced its positioning. In this context, it is also worth mentioning that Jacques Cassini calculated the prime meridian for the Paris observatory around 1718, i.e. just at the beginning of the reworking of the church, that a certain simultaneity of the determination of the prime meridian and the establishment of the noon line was found here in St-Sulpice.


In the tower of St. Sulpice there are 5 bells that are among the most important chimes in Paris:

Casting year
1 Thérèse 1824 Osmond-Dubois 6000 2085 g 0
2 Caroline 1824 Osmond-Dubois 3900 1880 as 0
3 Louise 1828 Osmond-Dubois 2780 1680 h 0
4th Marie 1828 Osmond-Dubois 2300 1580 c 1
5 Henriette-Louise 1824 Osmond-Dubois 900 1165 e 1


The following were buried in the Saint-Sulpice church:


Other events

  • In 1772 Marie-Angélique Diderot, Denis Diderot's daughter , married the industrialist Abel François Nicolas Caroillon de Vandeul here.
  • In 1822 Victor Hugo and Adèle Foucher married here .
  • In 1841 Heinrich Heine and the shoe seller Eugenie Crescentia Mirat, who had known each other since 1834, got married here .
  • The Marquis de Sade and Charles Baudelaire were baptized here (1740 and 1821, respectively).
  • Dan Brown's novel “The Da Vinci Code ” contains a scene at the beginning in which the fallen monk Silas is looking for the Holy Grail in the church under the meridian . There is also a scene in Saint-Sulpice in the Hollywood film version " The Da Vinci Code ".
  • On March 17, 2019, a door of the south transept burned. Nobody got hurt. According to police, the fire was started intentionally.

Fontaine Visconti

In front of the church is the Visconti fountain, built in 1844 according to plans by Louis Visconti , after whom it is named. The fountain also has other names, such as Fontaine des Quatre Evêques ('Fountain of the Four Bishops'). None of the four depicted church superiors ever made it to the cardinal, which is why the name Fontaine des Quatre points Cardinaux is common, where point has the meaning of 'never'. The fountain would then be called: Fountain of those who were never cardinals. The names of the bishops are: Jacques Bénigne Bossuet , François Fénelon , Jean-Baptiste Massillon and Esprit Fléchier . The lions at the feet of those honored here do not have the usual classical dignity, but rather show extremely aggressive behavior, but in this form very convincing.


Web links

Commons : St-Sulpice (Paris)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sunday Mass and Audition & Concerts (in English) . Accessed May 4, 2018.
  2. ^ Association Aristide Cavaillé-Coll / Kurt Lueders (ed.): Le Grand-Orgue de Saint-Sulpice et ses Organistes . La Flûte Harmonique, Numéro spécial , no. 59/60 (1991), pp. 7-29.
  3. ^ Association pour le rayonnement des orgues Aristide Cavaillé-Coll de l'église Saint-Sulpice (Paris): Who we are (in English) . Accessed May 4, 2018.
  4. The great organ and Great organ specification . Accessed May 4, 2018.
  5. ^ Roth, Daniel and Pierre-François Dub-Attenti: The Neoclassical Organ and the Great Aristide Cavaillé-Coll Organ of Saint-Sulpice, Paris . London: Rhinegold Publishing, 2014.
  6. No trompette en chamade, but a solo reed with cranked bell, standing on high wind pressure, on its own wind chest directly under the swell box of the "Récit expressif". Great organ specification (in English) . Accessed May 4, 2018.
  7. ^ The choir organ (in English) . Accessed May 4, 2018.
  8. Choir organ specification (in English) . Accessed May 4, 2018.
  9. ^ Organists of the great organ . Accessed May 4, 2018.
  10. The interior shots of Saint-Sulpice in the film were reconstructed with the help of a “green screen” in the studio. The Da Vinci Code - The Da Vinci Code (2006) . Accessed February 5, 2018.
  11. Video on YouTube .
  12. Flames hit the second largest church in Paris . In: Reuters . March 18, 2019 ( [accessed April 16, 2019]).
  13. Le feu qui a pris dans l'édifice dimanche est parti d'un tas de vêtements stockés sur place. March 18, 2019 ( [accessed April 17, 2019]).

Coordinates: 48 ° 51 ′ 4 "  N , 2 ° 20 ′ 5"  E