History of Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont

The Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont is a very historical church in Paris that has a rich history spanning centuries, although how this edifice came about, started way before it was actually constructed, but has features that cannot be seen anywhere else in the city.

Before the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont

During the reign of King Clovis the Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul was constructed, which is where King Clovis and his wife Clotilde were buried, and also in the 6th century, this is also where Saint Genevieve was buried.
Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont Saint Genevieve

This church became an important royal abbey virtually from the start of the Middle Ages, however, over the centuries it became too small to accommodate the growing population in the area, so, in the early part of the 1200s, Pope Honorius III authorised the construction of another sanctuary, but this time it was dedicated to Saint Etienne who was the first martyr, which in English is Saint Stephen.

But yet again this second church became too small to accommodate the density of the population, especially will colleges such as the Sorbonne that were located within the area, and therefore it was enlarged, although, by the 1400s it was decided that a completely new church would be constructed.

Start of the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont

The Congregation and the monks of the Abbey Saint Genevieve donated a portion of land in which to construct the new church, which would still be dedicated and under the patronage of the first Martyr, Saint Stephen, which as we mentioned earlier, is the English name for the martyr Saint Etienne.
Plans for the church were drawn up by the architect, initially for the apse and the bell tower towards the end of the 1400s and work started in 1492, with the bells being cast in the year 1500, and the choir was completed in a Gothic style in 1537, along with the frame and loft within the same decade.

Then in the 1540s the chapels of the apse were blessed and renowned artists of the time were commissioned to produce the stained glass windows and different statues.

Yet construction of this church in Paris, was being conducted through the turmoil of the French Wars of Religion where Roman Catholics and Huguenots were fighting, so work was slow, and it was not until the 1580s that the nave was started.

The first stone of the facade was laid by Marguerite de Valois, who was Queen of Navarre, but also wife of King Henri IV and hence Queen consort of France and flanking the Abbey Saint-Genevieve, the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont was finally dedicated by the first Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Francois de Gondi on 15th February 1626.
Window on Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont

Sculpture on Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont

Continuation of Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont

The history of the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont does not stop there, as further developments took place, with the case for the organ being carved by the master joiner, Jehan Buron, in 1631, which was to house the organ made by Pierre Pescheur.

Then a new pulpit was installed in 1651 at the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont and this impressive church was becoming increasingly popular as a prestigious place of worship, but the original abbey church was at that time also still standing, although getting into major disrepair.

So, in 1744, King Louis XV decided that the original abbey church would be replaced with an imposing building, which eventually became The Pantheon that we know today, however, during the French Revolution, the abbey church was virtually destroyed.

Also in 1789 during the French Revolution, the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont almost had the same fate, with statues, some stained glass windows and many other aspects destroyed, along with a rich collection of impressive paintings and tapestries that were dispersed, or lost forever.
Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont facade

However, after the French Revolution, in 1804 the original buildings of the Abbey Saint-Genevieve were converted into a school and the original abbey church was demolished making way for a new street as well, which meant that small parts of the sarcophagus and relics of Saint Genevieve from other parts of France were moved to the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont.

In the mid 1800s a chapel dedicated to Saint Genevieve was constructed within the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, which holds her shrine, and the architect, Victor Baltard also restored the facade, along with reproducing the statues that had previously been destroyed.

So from this time on, the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont has basically remained the same separated from the site of the original abbey, and there is so much discover, with some unique aspects that can be seen nowhere else in Paris like the organ casing and the choir screen.

Therefore, in conclusion, whether you are a tourist, pilgrim, fascinated in history, religion or architecture, this church in Paris is a great place to visit while you are within the 5th Arrondissement of the capital city of France, which is also close to many other tourist attractions.