In the 9th Arrondissement at 6, rue Sainte-Cécile, Paris you will find a beautiful but little known church which is curiously dedicated to two saints: Saint Eugene (in honour of Napoleon III’s wife, Eugénie, who was responsible for the building of the church) and Saint Cecilia (patron saint of music; the National Conservatoire is close by). The church has no bell tower, so that the bells do not disturb the musicians.
Designed by Lussion and Boileau, who took their inspiration from 13th century architecture, the church was built in 1654-55 to meet the needs of the new suburbs being created as Paris expanded. Wherever you stand in the interior you get an overall view of the entire space, which is brightly painted and flooded with light.
The entire structure, including the columns is painted cast iron, creating a very original polychrome interior. The columns are steel blue and Florentine bronze, whilst the vaults are dotted with stars and the ribbing is painted a variety of colours.
Another peculiarity of the church is that since 1989 masses here have been held according to two different liturgies – that introduced by Paul VI and those associated with Pope Pius V and celebrated in Latin. Up to 1998 the two liturgies were celebrated by two different priests, but now are the responsibility of a single priest. Thus, it is not uncommon to find, in the same morning, a mass in French (with the celebrant facing the congregation), then – a couple of hours later – the same priest, now in gold and purple vestments, celebrating a Latin mass (complete with Gregorian chant) according to a rite that has him facing away from the congregation.
The stained glass windows are just magnificent and quite frankly take your breath away with their vibrancy of colour and their grandeur while the detail of the high altar (pictured below) is most unusual.. This really is something you must take the time to see – truly beautiful and unique.
(Adapted in part from Secret Paris by Jacques Garance Maud Ratton)