While wandering around the Bas Marais, you’re sure to stumble upon the Église Saint-Paul Saint-Louis, most often called Saint Paul. Located at n°99 Rue Saint-Antoine, this 17th-century building doesn’t look like your typical French church and offers a few surprises inside. So go on and walk through its bright red doors for a quick visit.
Built on the orders of King Louis XIII, the Saint Paul Church was formerly called Église Saint-Louis-des-Jésuites, with the first mass here celebrated by Cardinal Richelieu on May 9, 1641 (Ascension Day). The church connects to the Lycée Charlemagne, a public high school which was once the home of the Order of the Jesuits.
The church’s architecture is a mixture of styles: the façade and large central dome are hallmarks of Italian design while the height of the structure follows French Gothic tradition. But it’s not just the architecture that’s interesting here; Saint Paul also showcases many impressive pieces of art. A grand 19th-century gallery organ stands above the entrance and an original painting by Eugène Delacroix, “Christ in agony in the garden of olive trees,” hangs just above one of the four passageways leading to the different chapels.
Delacroix wasn’t the only artist to give an offering to the Saint Paul Church. Victor Hugo offered two shell-shaped holy water fonts when his daughter Léopoldine married here in 1843. Hugo later used Saint Paul as the setting for the marriage of Cosette and Marius in his famous Les Misérables.