- CHRISTMAS IN PARIS -

Church of Saint Eustache

LINKS to other pages in the 'Christmas in Paris' site and to the Travelling Days series:

1 : Welcome to Paris
2 : Les Halles
3 : St Eustache Church
4 : Louvre
5 : River Journey
6 : Notre Dame
7 : Paris Market
8 : Paris by Night

HOME PAGE : CHRISTMAS IN BRITAIN, FRANCE AND AUSTRIA

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The Church of St Eustache is one of the most important churches in Paris. Standing near the Louvre and the Royal Palace, St Eustache was known as a Royal Church from the 17th century until the French Revolution.

The original church, situated in an area of Paris renowned for fresh produce of all kinds, was built in 1223, thanks to a man named Alais who raised funds by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby. Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name "Saint-Eustache" refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general who was burned along with his family for converting to Christianity.

Situated at the entrance to Paris’ ancient markets (Les Halles) and the beginning of the famous rue Montorgueuil, the Eglise de Saint-Eustache is another Parisian gothic gem. During the French Revolution the church was (like most churches in Paris) desecrated and looted, and used for a time as a barn. However, several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today.

Numerous major events have marked its history. Richelieu, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson (the future Marquess de Pompadour) and Molière were baptised there. The young Louis XIV celebrated communion in St. Eustache Church, and the funerals of La Fontaine, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's mother, and many other celebrities took place here. The writer Voiture, the grammarian Vaugelas, Furetière, the harlequin Dominique Bensérade and Scaramouche are buried in the church.

The world-wide reputation of the St Eustache is due not only to its splendid architecture, but also to its musical tradition. The marriage of Lulli, the last organ recital of Remeau, the concerts of Berlioz, Franck, Liszt and many others are examples. In 1963 Jean Guillou, an accomplished virtuoso and improviser of great talent and promoter and interpreter of modern music for the organ, was appointed organist at St Eustache. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Messiah here in 1886.

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View of the church from Les Halles (right)

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The south elevation (left)

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The interior of St Eustache (right and below)


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The Christmas Crib scene in St Eustache (right and below)



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The first organ was built in the 16th century and several instruments followed right up to the 20th century. The present organ case, which is 18 metres high, was built in the middle of the 19th century following the plans of the architect Baltard. The organ was altered in 1880 and in 1910 numerous other modifications were made. Following the disastrous results of works initiated in 1978 the City of Paris decided, in 1985, to organise a competition in order to have the organ rebuilt. The contract was ultimately awarded to the Dutch firm of Van den Heuvel.

Building the new instrument began in 1986 and the organ was completed in the organ builder's assembly hall in August 1988. At that time it was fully playable (with exception of the display pipes which, together with the case, were strongly anchored to the walls of the Saint Eustache church). Towards the end of 1988 the instrument was dismantled, shipped to Paris and reinstalled on the gallery. Works were finished by summer 1989 and a dedicatory recital was held on 21 September 1989.

The Van den Heuvel organ is completely new except for the case with its display pipes and a few stops which were reused, amongst them the Cor de Basset 8' made by the famous English organ builder Henry Willis for Joseph Bonnet, organist of Saint Eustache from 1906 to 1943. The present organ has 101 stops which operate 8000 pipes on five manuals.



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