The churches of Paris and France are as unique as the fashion in the city. Some are elegantly dressed with ornamental altars, sculptures and dozens of large stained glass windows while others are more understated and classic.
The newer ones are lighter and brighter and dare to be full of color. Each style of church reflects the people who worship there.
Gone are the days where a church was needed every couple of blocks; the ease of the Métro means parishioners can be “choosy” about where they attend based upon various criteria like what time is convenient for them to attend, the parish priest’s personality or what part of town they want to be in after they worship. Strict rules still apply (and all over the world for Catholics) about receiving the sacraments (Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, Marriage) in their home parish.
I tend to visit Catholic churches because I am of French decent and am a practicing Catholic. I like to imagine my ancestors making the trek to Paris and attending mass at one of the places I have lit a candle and I love the historical nature of the churches. The history of Paris is documented well in the archives of the churches. Meticulous notations of births and deaths help those wanting to find their roots easier and easier. Many churches have taken to scanning their documents which will make ancestry searches even easier as time goes on.
There are churches of distinction like Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame, but there are many churches that are lesser known and go unnoticed for the most part. Elderly Parisians attend mass, but the younger generations are not so devout. What will happen to these buildings is anyone’s guess, but my goal is always to visit a church when in Paris to thank God for the good fortune to be able to travel and to pray for intentions for loved ones back home.
I learned this past year a most valuable lesson – pack my humanity along with my bags. To read more about the life changing encounter at a church in Paris see my page on the church Abbey St-Germain-des-Près.