Saint-Sulpice was founded in 1634 by the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés as a new parish church, but financial difficulties meant that it was not finished until 1766, when the facade was completed. No fewer that six architects were involved in the work.
The original plan by the Florentine architect G. N. Servandoni (1695-1766) to lay out in front of the church a square with a semicircular range of uniform houses was not carried out.
Place Saint Suplice, F-75006 Paris, France
Transit: Metro: St-Sulpice; Bus: 39, 48, 58, 63, 70, 84, 86, 87, 89, 96.
The square in its present form dates from 1808. In the center of the square is the Fountain of the Four Bishops (by Louis Visconti, 1844), with figures of the four great French preachers Bossuet, Fénelon, Massillon and Fléchier.
The plain facade, modeled on Wren's St Paul's Cathedral in London, was the work of Servandoni. With its double row of columns (the upper ones Ionic, the lower ones Doric) it is a rare example of simple, unadorned classicism. The 73m/240ft high north tower was built by J.-F. Chalgrin (1777); the south tower (68m/223ft high) remained unfinished. The nave, begun by Christophe Gamard in 1646 and continued by Louis Le Vau from 1555 onwards, has a barrel- vaulkted roof. The impression of spaciousness is enhanced by the tall windows which secure a uniform diffusion of light.
The two holy water stoups at the entrance were originally gifts to François I from the Venetian Republic, and were bequeathed to the church by Louis XV. In the first side chapel on the right are three frescoes (1861) by the Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix depicting the Archangel Michael's fight with the dragon, the expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple and Jacob wrestling with the angel. The 10 statues on the pillars of the choir (by Edme Bouchardon, begun 1734) are of Christ, the Virgin and eight of the Apostles. The Lady Chapel (Chapelle de la Vierge), at the east end of the church, has four paintings by Carle van Loo (1705-65), a ceiling painting by François Lemoyne (1699-1737) and a marble figure of the Virgin by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (1714-85). The mighty Cliquot organ (1781) was rebuilt and enlarged by Cavaillé-Coll in 1860. Organ recitals draw appreciative audiences.
Victor Hugo was married in Saint-Sulpice in 1822, the German poet Heinrich Heine in 1841.