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Saint Sulpice Virgin Mary

Saint Sulpice


The biggest church in paris

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Why you will love it?

Situated in the heart of the Saint Germain area, the Saint Sulpice church is the biggest in Paris. A monument very characteristic of the area, Saint Sulpice is bursting with secrets, symbols and works of art. The church is especially intriguing as its construction was never actually finished! Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

2 Rue Palatine, 75006 Paris
Line 4 - Saint Sulpice

Tuesday : 7:30 am - 19:30 pm
more less
Monday : 7:30 am - 19:30 pm Tuesday : 7:30 am - 19:30 pm Wednesday : 7:30 am - 19:30 pm Thursday : 7:30 am - 19:30 pm Friday : 7:30 am - 19:30 pm Saturday : 7:30 am - 19:30 pm Sunday : 7:30 am - 19:30 pm

Our Insiders' Article


At the age of 10, Sulpicius decided he wanted to become a monk, but it was only 30 years later that he was actually able to fulfill his vocation – which is a rather long delay! Perhaps he went on to influence the fate of the church named after him as construction began back in 1646 and there is still part of the building that has not been finished! It will certainly be many years before it is truly completed, if it ever is one day…In any case, the enormous Saint Sulpice church stretching 120m (395ft) in length and 57m (185ft) across is definitely worth an in-depth visit to discover it many secrets and admire its beautiful works of art.

Facade & Towers

It is the many legends and tales scattered throughout its history that make the Saint Sulpice church so interesting. The most well known story is that the building’s construction has never been finished. This fact is clearly visible – while the North tower is in perfect condition, the South tower is evidently incomplete. The two towers aren’t event the same size! Also, the South tower, which was targeted by the Prussian artillery in 1870, bears the still-visible marks of the attack. Both towers have served as living quarters – in the past, the North tower housed the bell ringer and, still today, the South tower is home to…a couple of falcons!

Parisianist Fun Fact: the facade designed by the architect Servandoni (1695-1766) includes no less than 100 columns!

Delacroix & Pigalle

The works of two eminent artists can be seen all around Saint Sulpice. You will notice several sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (1714-1785), in particular the church’s main showpiece, the statue of the Virgin and Child located in the Lady Chapel, and the marble rocks on which lay the enormous holy water fonts given by the Doge of Venice to King François I in the 16th Century. According to the legend, it was these very rocks that provided the inspiration for 19th Century painter Eugene Delacroix when painting the roots of the tree in the mural “Jacob Wrestling with the Angel” that adorns the wall of the Saint Sulpice. It took Delacroix the last seven years of his life to finish the two paintings situated in the Chapel of the Holy Angels. Not far from this chapel, you will find the rather impressive tomb of French theologian Languet de Cergy who died in 1753 after having served over 30 years as priest at Saint Sulpice.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Delacroix was forbidden to paint during mass.

Virgin Mary

Priest Jean-Joseph Languet de Cergy was fascinated by the Virgin Mary. He had the statue of the Virgin that stood in the Lady Chapel plated in silver, but the revolutionaries destroyed it during the pillage of the church and melted it to recover the precious metal. It was later replaced by the Pigalle’s statue that stands there still today. The star, symbol of the Virgin, can be seen all throughout the church, in particular in the sacristy and the Lady Chapel. Alongside Pigalle’s statue of the Virgin, you will see the oldest stones in the church. The marble columns date back to the 4th Century BC and come from the ancient city of Leptis Magna in Libya.

Parisianist Fun Fact: according to the legend, Languet de Cergy found the silver to plate the statue by swiping the silver cutlery during meals, which explains the origin of the name "Our Lady of the Old Tableware”. 

Gnomon & Pulpit and Organ

Other curious stories intrigue the church’s many visitors. The gnomon, situated in the north transept, enabled the priests to determine the time of the equinoxes. It was sadly damaged during the French revolution and so no longer functions correctly. Despite the names of King Louis XV and his ministers having been scratched off, the obelisk is fortunately still intact. It was saved from the waves of destruction inflicted by the revolutionaries thanks to its scientific worth. The pulpit also hides an interesting story. A rather understated construction in comparison to the rest of the structure, with only one staircase either side, it has been used by priests, revolutionaries and also the French anarchist Louise Michel during the Paris Commune of 1871. Finally the organ, built in 1781, was restored by Cavaillé-Col in 1857 and ranks amongst his best work. 


The present Saint Sulpice church is the second on the site, the previous one was built over, as it was much too small for the needs of the local congregation. The priest Jean-Jacques Olier commissioned the new building work and the queen consort of France Anne of Austria laid the first stone in 1642. The subsequent construction lasted for over 130 years and was never actually finished. In total, seven architects worked on the project one after another, in particular Gittard who designed the main part of the church and Servandoni who worked on the facade.

Parisianist Fun Fact: The construction methods differ throughout Saint Sulpice. The main body of the church is made of solid stone, while the ceiling is a lot lighter and more opulently decorated. This is due to changing architectural trends between the XVII and XVIII centuries.


During the French revolution, Saint Sulpice suffered the same fate as many other churches in Paris. It was heavily pillaged, but luckily many sculptures were saved as they had been hidden in the University of Beaux-Arts and the Institut de France (French Institute). Then, in 1793 the church became a Temple of Reason, the new belief system created by the revolutionaries to replace Christianity. Above the main entrance to the church, you can still just about make out the engraving “Le peuple françois reconnoit l’Etre Suprême et l’immortalité de l’âme” meaning that the French people acknowledge the Supreme Being and the immortal soul. However, the glory of the Saint Sulpice church was restored during a banquet for 750 people organized to celebrate the return of Napoleon Bonaparte from Egypt just a few days before the coup d’état on November 9th 1799.


Saint Sulpice has witnessed many important moments in the lives of certain public figures throughout history. For example, the French aristocrat the Marquis de Sade and poet Charles Baudelaire were baptized here. Both journalist Camille Desmoulin and author Victor Hugo got married in this church while the funerals of philosopher Montesquieu and more recently the actor Marcello were celebrated at Saint Sulpice. However, the church has also been a home to many unknown people. There are apartments high up in the church in which an architect still lives today. Also, during WWII, the inhabitants of these apartments set up a chicken coop and planted a vegetable garden on the roof of the church.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Robespierre was Best Man at Camille Desmoulin’s wedding, the same Robespierre who, 4 years later had Desmoulin guillotined!

Parisianist Scoop

There is a possibility to discover Saint Sulpice's crypt: a guided tour is organized every second Sunday of the month, but reservations are needed and have to be made at least 1 month in advance. Although not as fascinating as the church itself, the crypt does have some interesting curiosities: old stones (including the area where the first stone was placed in 1746 by the Queen of France Anne d'Autriche), tombs, cenotaphs and a few bones . Also clearly visible are the remains of the 13th century smaller church which was almost completely destroyed and its based used in the foundations of the new 18th century church.

Parisianist Fun Fact: The orientation of the new church is not exactly aligned with the cardinal points. This was due to the fact that the price of the land that had to be purchased to build the church in the correct orientation in 1742 was far too expensive. The older church on the other hand was correctly oriented.


The Saint Sulpice church is a very important location in Dan Brown’s successful novel, The Da Vinci Code.  He alleges that the letters S and P that can be seen in the fascinating stained glass windows throughout the church indicate a link to the “Priory of Sion”, but the letters actually refer to Pierre and Sulpice, two important patrons of the church. You can however see several triangular motifs that are clear references to Freemasonry. This explains why some people call the Saint Sulpice church the New Temple of Solomon. In any case, the opportunity to visit crypt and the North tower, the culture, history and sheer beauty of the church make Saint Sulpice an absolute must-do during a visit to the Saint Germain area. 

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