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"St Sulphice - as featured in the Da Vinci Code" Église Saint-Sulpice Tip by CatherineReichardt

Église Saint-Sulpice, Paris: 32 reviews and 90 photos


Oh dear, I really don't like this church. It is the second largest church in Paris - second only to Notre Dame - but the contrast between the architectural mongrel that is St Sulphice and the serene Gothic perfection of Notre Dame is, at least in my mind, both stark and unflattering.

I spent a long time staring at St Sulphice to try and work out what architectural style to ascribe to it ... and, in desperation, consulted Wikipedia (which charitably describes it as an 'unorthodox essay', which must be architectural code for 'a dog's breakfast'). It tells me that it was designed by Giovanni Niccolò Servandoni with a "double Ionic colonnade over Roman Doric with loggias behind them unify the bases of the corner towers with the façade; this fully classicising statement was made at the height of the Rococo". That explains it then - 'Rococo' is dangerously close to 'Baroque' in my book, and I am violently allergic to both!

I also dislike the church's interior (admittedly not quite as much as the exterior) but it does, however, boast one interesting feature: a gnomon. Much though this may sound like a resident goblin, it is in fact a device for calculating the dates of Easter. This is achieved through the alignment of a sunbeam shining through a lens set into one of the windows, a brass meridian line inlaid into the floor and an obelisk at noon on winter solstice (21 December) in a manner that I don't begin to understand. If this all sounds very much like mystic symbolism in the vein of Dan Brown novels, then it will come as no surprise to know that St Sulphice is the setting for one of the early scenes in the Da Vinci Code movie, although permission was refused for filming to take place here, so the setting was recreated using CG graphics. The mere thought of that hideous architecture in combination with Tom Hanks' unfortunate mullet haircut is just too much aesthetic overload for a soul to bear!

And, finally, the million dollar question: who was St Sulphice anyway? Well, St Sulphicius (also known as Pius) was Bishop of Bourges in the 7th century.

But I really like the square on which it stands ...

P.S. Just to further endorse its 'unorthodox' credentials, you may be interested to know that the Marquis de Sade was baptised in this church.

Update (October 2011): Our resident VT organist, dnwitte, informs me that St Sulphice is the place of pilgrimage for organists visiting Paris and also has the best resident organist in the city - maybe next time I should consider visiting blindfold???

Address: Metro Line 4 : Saint-Sulpice
Directions: At Rue Servandoni.
Phone: 33 1 42 34 59 98

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Aug 29, 2013
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