Saint-Esprit, Paris

Church of the Holy Spirit
Église du Saint-Esprit
P1020286 Paris XII Rue Cannebière Eglise du Saint-Esprit-rwk.JPG
Exterior on rue Cannebière
Church of the Holy Spirit is located in Paris
Church of the Holy Spirit
Church of the Holy Spirit
48°50′17″N 2°23′51″E / 48.838100°N 2.397600°E / 48.838100; 2.397600Coordinates: 48°50′17″N 2°23′51″E / 48.838100°N 2.397600°E / 48.838100; 2.397600
Location 186, avenue Daumesnil, 12th arrondissement, Paris
Country France
Denomination Roman Catholic
Status Active
Dedication 1935
Architect(s) Paul Tournon
Architectural type church
Groundbreaking 1928
Completed 1935
Parish Saint-Esprit
Archdiocese Paris

Saint-Esprit is a Roman Catholic church in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, France, in the southeast of the city.


The nave of the church, with its altar and ciborium.

The population in the neighbourhood had been growing since 1860, creating a need for a large church. The triangular parcel of land[1][2] between avenue Daumesnil and rue Claude Decaen was purchased in 1927 by the Archbishop, Cardinal Dubois, and his auxiliary Mgr Crépin.[3]

The Église du Saint-Esprit was built between 1928 and 1935. The crypt was inaugurated in 1929 and served as a chapel while the upper part of the church was being built. The work progressed slowly due to lack of funding. When Cardinal Dubois died in 1929, he was replaced by Bishop Verdier, who resumed construction in 1932. His bust is above the main door.[3]

The interior decor of the church was protected as a Monument Historique by the Ministère de la Culture on 17 August 1979. The entire edifice was designated a historical monument in 1992.[4]


The dome

The architecture of the church—with its juxtaposition of Byzantine influence and reinforced concrete—is 'absolutely unique.' [5]

The architect, Paul Tournon, designed and built the church, following a plan inspired by that of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.[5]

The church has a huge dome — 22 metres (72 ft) in diameter with a summit at 33 metres (108 ft) above ground level. The use of reinforced concrete for the vertical supports and the dome was a major technical feat at the time.[5]

The dome was designed to allow light to enter through the row of openings at its base. Nevertheless, some experts contend that the darkness of the interior interferes with the appreciation of the rich interior décor.[5]

The reinforced concrete of the exterior has a facing of red bricks from Burgundy.[4]

The Interior Décor

Fresco over doorway

The interior was elaborately decorated (frescoes, mosaics, sculptures and stained glass windows) by the artists of the Ateliers d'Art Sacré, an association of Catholic artists dedicated to creating art in the service of God.[2][3]

The interior is generally dark, giving the church its unique atmosphere.

The decoration illustrates the history of the 'church militant' and of the 'church triumphant' from the Pentecost to the 20th century. One of its main themes is the influence of the Holy Spirit on human history.[5]

The frescoes are organised chronologically into 7 periods: 1. the Pentecost, including the intercession of the Virgin Mary and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles; 2: the first to the fourth century, including the martyrdom of Saint Peter and Saint Jean's vision of the Apocalypse; 3. the fifth to the eleventh century, including the baptism of Clovis and Pope Gregory I defining the rules for Gregorian chants; 4. the twelfth to the thirteen century, including Bernard of Clairvaux's founding of the Cistercian monasteries and the construction of the first Gothic cathedrals; 5. the fourteenth to the fifteenth century, including Catherine of Siena in front of the papal palace in Avignon and the precursors of the Renaissance; 6. the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, including Henry IV with the Edict of Nantes, marking a step forward for religious tolerance and an end to the French Wars of Religion; 7. the nineteenth and twentieth century, including an image of the Holy Spirit overseeing the work of both the Holy Family and contemporary workers.[6]

Most of the frescoes were painted onto wet cement and mistakes could not be corrected.[6] To enhance the unity of the interior decor, the architect imposed a standard height for the depiction of all major characters, and red as the color of all the backgrounds.[5]

Murals and frescoes were the work inter alia of Maurice Denis, Georges Desvallières, Robert Poughéon, Nicolas Untersteller and Elizabeth Branly.[2][7]

Carlo Sarrabezolles sculpted the statues and the stained glass windows are the work of Louis Barillet, Paul Louzier and Jean Herbert-Stevens. Raymond Subes undertook the metalwork and Marcel Imbs made the mosaic and stained glass boxes of the crypt.[4]




  1. ^ Chavot, Pierre (2002). Les Eglises de Paris. Paris: Flammarion. pp. 158–159. ISBN 2-7003-1320-8.
  2. ^ a b c Dumoulin, Aline (2007). Paris d'église en église. Paris: Massin. pp. 244–246. ISBN 978-2-7072-0583-4.
  3. ^ a b c Notre église, Paroisse de Saint-Esprit.
  4. ^ a b c "Eglise du Saint-Esprit". Retrieved 2021-02-26.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Eglise du Saint-Esprit à Paris". Retrieved 2021-02-26.
  6. ^ a b Equipe Art, Culture et Foi. L'église du Saint-Esprit (in French). La Paroisse du Saint-Esprit. pp. 16–35.
  7. ^ Gluck, Denise (2008). Paris sacré: 100 lieux à découvrir. Paris: Christine Bonneton. pp. 110–111. ISBN 978-2-86253-410-7.