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In Paris, art lovers meet… in churches

Due to the health crisis, museums and art centers remain closed in France. But churches keep their doors open. And many of them contain artistic gems that deserve to be rediscovered. In Paris, a guide to religious heritage, published by Art, culture and faith, an association created in 1989 by Cardinal Lustiger, is published each year. The 22e This edition, published in January, is of particular interest in this period of a galloping pandemic. More than a hundred places are listed there, where visitors can see paintings by Delacroix, Tintoretto or Rubens, sculptures by Bouchardon, Girardon or Pigalle, organs, stained glass windows, exceptional furniture, including one large number of contemporary creations.

A youthful work by Rubens

The vast majority of the places listed are Catholic, three are Protestant churches and one Orthodox. An application, The stones speak, allows you to visit with your smartphone, by scanning the QR code accompanying each place. “You can even click from home, and thus make a visit from your bed”, laughs François Drouin, the president of the Art, culture and faith association. Ten thousand connections were recorded in 2019 and, despite the lockdowns, there were 13,000 in 2020. Nearly 62% of those who used the application are under 35 years old.

Symbolically, the presentation of the 22e edition of the guide was made in Saint-Eustache, today the most visited church in Paris (1er), and one of the largest, with an arch height of 33 meters, more than Notre-Dame. Its artistic heritage is so rich to make many museum curators jealous. We can see in particular The Pilgrims of Emmaus an early work by Rubens (1577-1640). This painting, restored for eighteen months, thanks in part to the patrons of the Fondation Avenir du patrimoine in Paris, found its place in the fall of 2020. The work carried out allowed it to be formally attributed to the Flemish master. while it was in competition with another similar canvas, kept in Madrid, of which it was not known if it was the copy of the other.

Guide to church visits. The religious heritage of Paris (Art, Culture et Foi, 64 pages), produced in partnership with the Notre-Dame Foundation and the Paris City Hall, is available free of charge in the 112 churches, at the Town Hall, in the district town halls and offices tourism.

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