Top Five Unusual Churches in Paris

There are more than 100 churches in Paris. So many are beautiful or worth the visit due to their architecture or to the artworks that they house that I would not be able to choose a top three, a top five or even a top ten. For that reason I have chosen to write a post about the most unusual churches in Paris. Two of them are really hidden and off the beaten track and one may have never heard of them. The other three are better known but each of them offers a unique and superb architecture not to be missed. Let’s discover them from the most secret to the most magnificent.

The most invisible : L’Eglise Saint Ignace
Eglise Saint Ignace - Paris - Hidden in the Centre Sevres
Eglise Saint Ignace – Paris – Hidden in the Centre Sevres

One reaches the Eglise Saint Ignace through the porch of the 33 Rue de Sèvres: at the end of a modern corridor one can see two glass doors with the name of the church written on them. The Church cannot be seen from the street: since 1972 it has been completely integrated into the Centre Sèvres, the Jesuite Faculty of Paris.

As its name suggests the Eglise Saint Ignace was built by the Jesuits 160 years ago. Here the altar is located in the middle of the congregation; the seats form an ellipse around it; and the congregation takes part in the celebration. The Church has just been beautifully renovated and is now superb and bright. Yet the 52 windows of the triforium are blind… as behind them are standing the bookshelves of the Faculty’s library.

Eglise Saint Ignace - Paris - The painted glasses of light by Patrick Rimoux
Eglise Saint Ignace – Paris – The painted glasses of light by Patrick Rimoux

The last step of the renovation will be the floodlighting of those 52 blind windows by painted glasses of light. Six of them are already in place under the organ and one can imagine what the atmosphere will be when it is over: peaceful and favourable to meditation. I love them… and for sure I will come back!

Eglise Saint Ignace – 33 rue de Sèvres, 75006 Paris

The most confidential : L’Eglise Saint Serge
Eglise Orthodoxe Saint Serge - Paris - View of the outside from the garden
Eglise Orthodoxe Saint Serge – Paris – View of the outside from the garden

The Eglise Saint Serge hides in the end of a path, in the middle of a garden and on top of the hill Saint Serge, an unknown hill in the vicinity of the Buttes Chaumont. Its history is fascinating and recounts the one of the migrations in this part of Paris between 1850 and 1925.

In the second half of 19th century many German immigrants came and lived in that area. The hill was bought in 1858 by the minister Bodelschwing who organized a Lutheran congregation with a church, built in 1861, and a school. In 1918 the buildings were requisitioned by the French State and sold by auction a couple of years later. There were bought by the Russian Orthodox Church on 18 July 1924… on Saint Serge’s day. Indeed since the Russian Revolution many Russian people had emigrated to Paris and the building of a church for them had become necessary. The Lutheran church has been turned into an Orthodox one since that time.

Eglise Orthodoxe Saint Serge - Paris - Inside at vespers
Eglise Orthodoxe Saint Serge – Paris – Inside at vespers

The outside of the church is charming and the inside is really worth seeing. One can enter every day at 7am for the matins and at 6pm for the vespers. And on 10 June 2018 a piano concert will take place in the Church. Not to be missed ! The walls, the ceiling, the benches, the stools, the candlesticks… everything has been carved and painted. One is captivated by the decor, the singing of the prayers mixed with the one of the birds, the leaves of the trees trembling behind the windows. One feels elsewhere, somewhere in the Russian countryside.

Eglise Saint Serge – 93 rue de Crimée, 75019 Paris

The most rustic : L’Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne
Charonne - Paris - The purity of the architecture after renovation
Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne – Paris – The purity of the architecture after renovation

The Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne is perched on a promontory above the rue de Bagnolet and looks like the church of a village. One can still imagine it in the middle of vineyards as it used to be in the past. As rustic churches do, Saint Germain de Charonne still has its churchyard, which is almost unique in Paris: the only other Parisian church with a churchyard is Saint Pierre de Montmartre.

The inside has been beautifully restored and shows the various ages of the history of the church with a mix of romanesque remains such as the big pillars of the tower; 15th and 16th century architecture; and more recent works such as the organ (1850) or the stained-glass windows (1950). I like its sobriety and rusticity.

And do not miss a walk in the picturesque churchyard: so peaceful, unusual and charming, and offering nice views on the north side of the church.

Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne-Paris - The entrance, the church tower and adjacent churchyard
Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne-Paris – The entrance, the church tower and adjacent churchyard

Eglise Saint Germain de Charonne – 4 place Saint Blaise, 75020 Paris

The most surprising : L’Eglise Notre Dame du Travail
Eglise Notre Dame du Travail - Paris - Bright and light inside
Eglise Notre Dame du Travail – Paris – Bright and light inside

The Eglise Notre Dame du Travail was built between 1899 and 1901 in order to welcome the hundreds of people working at the World Fairs taking place in the neighbouring Champ de Mars. Indeed the former church, Notre Dame de Plaisance, had become too small.

The contrast between the outside built in a traditional Romanesque style and the inside is striking. Both are beautiful but the interior design of the church is what makes it unique: The vaults are made of metallic arches carried by thin iron columns. The whole gives the building an exceptional brightness and lightness. I love it!

Eglise Notre Dame du Travail - Paris - View from the choir
Eglise Notre Dame du Travail – Paris – View from the choir

Some of the artworks inside are also quite unsual and worth seeing. Three mural paintings in the side naves show patron saints for handicrafts: Saint Eloi (metal workers), Saint Luc (art workers) and Saint Joseph (carpenters). And do not miss the huge baptismal font or the chapel where a pieta and a war memorial coexist!

Eglise Notre Dame du Travail – 59 rue Vercingétorix, 75014 Paris

The most recent : La Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinité
Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinite - Paris - View from the Pont de l Alma
Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinite – Paris – View from the Pont de l Alma

The Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinité is the most important Russian Orthodox Church in Paris. The project of its construction had been launched by Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Poutine and the Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II in 2007 and knew ups and downs, just like the relations between France and Russia.

In the end the church was built, designed by the French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, and is part of the Spiritual and Cultural Russian Orthodox Centre. This Centre also includes on the same premises a cultural, an administrative and an educational building. The Cathedral was consecrated in December 2016.

Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinite - Paris - The iconostasis
Cathedrale de la Sainte Trinite – Paris – The iconostasis

The outside as well as the inside are both huge, bright and modern. One can enter the Cathedral through a security gate and attend a free and very interesting guided tour. No chairs inside: Indeed in the Orthodox liturgy the congregation is standing during the one and a half hour celebration. And no organ: the choir is standing on the balcony and the hymns are only choral, not instrumental. One will admire the magnificent iconostasis, the screen that separates the altar and the nave in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, which illuminates a besides white and sober inside.

Cathédrale de la Sainte Trinité – 1 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –

New and Unique in Paris: The Atelier des Lumières

The Atelier des Lumières opened its doors on 13 April in the trendy 11th arrondissement of Paris in a huge renovated industrial building. The place used to be a foundry covering an area of more than 3000 m2 during almost 100 years from 1835. Due to the international crisis the Plichon Brothers foundry closed in 1929 and the site was sold to a company specialized in tool manufacturing. The company closed in 2000 and the building was unused when it was discovered by Cuturespaces in 2013. This cultural business is well-known in France for its innovative and high-quality running of remarkable natural sites or historical buildings. Among the most famous: the Musée Jacquemart André in Paris or the Carrières de Lumière in the Baux de Provence.

The Atelier des Lumières in Paris is based on the same purpose as the Carrières de Lumière in the Baux de Provence and aims to offer to the public an impressive Art and Music Immersive Experience in a unique decor. There one does not look at an art work, one does not read about a picture or an artist but one is immerged into his time, life and works. Hundreds of cameras project thousands of images on the walls as well as on the floor.

Atelier des lumieres-Paris-Hundertwasser
Atelier des lumieres-Paris-Hundertwasser

One gets acquainted with the artist and his art works through the immersion into the images and the music. One lives the works and walks in the middle of them. The show is different on each section of wall, there is one image after the other in a riot of colours and sounds. One can either walk through the various spaces of the former foundry; stand or sit on a concrete seat, a stair or directly on the floor. And the show will depend on the place from which one looks at it, there is an infinity of combinations and one can see the same programme several times without having the same experience.

For its opening the Atelier des Lumières presents three successive exhibitions: a major immersive exhibition on Gustave Klimt; a short programme on Hundertwasser, a Viennese artist contemporary of Klimt; and an even shorter modern creation. The shows starts with Gustav Klimt…

The three programmes are shown continuously and one can stay as long as one wish. I looked at them twice with much pleasure… and I wish I had more time to stay and watch Hundertwasser a third time: so beautiful!

Such an unusual exhibition place is easier to describe with pictures rather than words… and even pictures only give a slight idea of what it is in reality. If you have never been to the Carrières de Lumière in the Baux de Provence, no doubt that you will be even more dazzled and surprised than me! As the first time is really amazing. And one more piece of advice: better avoid the weekends or the school holidays as the experience is more impressive when the site is not too crowded. I hope you will enjoy your visit!

Atelier des lumieres-Paris-Poetic AI
Atelier des lumieres-Paris-Poetic AI

Practical information : Atelier des Lumières – 38 rue Saint Maur 75011 – Exhibition Gustav Klimt – Until 31 December 2018 – 10am-6pm (10pm on fridays and saturdays)

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –

Exhibition Ceija Stojka in Paris: So beautiful and striking!

A beautiful and striking exhibition is taking place at the Maison rouge in Paris until 20 May. For the first time in Paris the works of Ceija Stojka are exhibited. She is a Romani Austrian artist born in 1933. At the age of ten she had been deported with her family and survived three concentration camps. Many years later, when she was 55, she began to express her memories through writing, drawing and painting. She died in 2013.

In her poetic texts as well as in her naïf paintings one can hear in the same time the child and the mature woman who remembers. Ceija Stojka makes us live her carefree childhood in a gipsy caravan; her survival in concentration camps till the liberation of Bergen-Belsen; and her return to life and freedom, as if we were next to her. Her works are a vibrant voice for the culture, deportation and present condition of Roma. I had not seen such a beautiful and deeply moving exhibition for long!

In our gipsy caravan

The first room is dedicated to the carefree life of Roma before the war, a carefreeness and freedom that they will never regain : bright colours, idyllic landscapes, cheerful words…

The Hunt

The following room is called: ‘La Traque’. Several paintings show Ceija and her brothers and sisters hiding themselves in a garden in Vienna. One can see only their frightened eyes…

Auschwitz: 31 March-June 1944

From the third room no more carefreeness. Ceija Stojka had been deported to Auschwitz with her mother, brothers and sisters in March 1944. Her paintings now show huge black boots, flags with swastikas, huts surrounded by barbed wire, dead bodies, chimneys and crows…

Ravensbrück: June-December 1944

The next room is called: Ravensbrück. Ceija, her mother and her sister Kathi were moved and deported in the women’s concentration camp of Ravensbrück in June 1944, only two months before the terrible liquidation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Gipsy camp (2 August). Whether in Black & White or in colours the paintings referring to that period are deeply moving, and ‘les femmes de Ravansbrück’ is a true masterpiece.

Bergen-Belsen: January-15 April 1945

In January 1945 Ceija and her mother were taken to the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, firstly by truck and then on foot. In this camp where no more food was given to the deportees Ceija and her mother survived among dead bodies despite cold, hunger and fear. On 15 April 1945 Bergen-Belsen was freed by the English troups; then set on fire to prevent the spread of epidemics which had already killed many deportees. The works exhibited in this room show life and death in Bergen-Belsen, as well as the liberation of the camp.

Back to Life

The last room of the exhibition brings us back to life. The walls are coloured again and one can see blue skies and sunflowers, and the sun and mother earth which both bring us life and hope. One can feel how the past, the present and the future are mixed up. Even if the paintings are now coloured and cheerful, the carefreeness expressed by the works in the first room has gone…

It is difficult to find the words telling all that one feels after visiting such an exhibition. I have introduced you to very few of the works exhibited: there are many other paintings and texts and some photographs as well. I hope that this general survey has tempted you. I really loved it! Moreover it was my first visit to the Maison rouge and I highly recommend you to discover this amazing cultural place near the Bastille… before its closing in the end of 2018.

And to end, some words by Ceija Stojka:

“If the world doesn’t change now – if the world doesn’t open its doors and windows – if it doesn’t build peace – real peace – so that my great-great-grandchildren have a chance of living in this world, then I’m incapable of explaining why I survived Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Ravensbrück.”

Practical information : Exhibition Ceija Stojka – La maison rouge-fondation antoine de galbert – 10 bd de la bastille 75012 – Until 20 May 2018 – wednesday till sunday: 11am-7pm (9pm on thursday)

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –