Visiting the Temple de l'Oratoire du Louvre, Paris: Baroque edifice by Jacques Lemercier, Protestant since 1811
Memorable venue for French Protestant gatherings
If this 17th century church building in Baroque Style looks like an ancient Roman Catholic church, this is exactly what it once was. Its architect was Jacques Lemercier (1585-1654)(1). Other architects — Clément II Métezeau (1581-1652) and Pierre Caqué (d.1767) — also worked on the building.
Among its conspicuous features at the rue Saint-Honoré elevation is its large pediment atop two stories of pillars. From rue de Rivoli, various turrets are visible. Regarding the interior of the building, as in many church structures, the nave, the transept and the choir are built in the form of a cross. The interior of the building, given its status as venue for adherents of the French Reformed Church, is free from religious ornamentation. Its vaulting is nevertheless rather ornate.
The name of the building is derived from its former association with the Congregation de l'Oratoire, an order formed in 1611. Under the Ancien régime, the former Eglise de l'Oratoire du Louvre was used as a royal chapel, and was the noted venue for the funerals of Cardinal de Richelieu in 1642 and King Louis XIII in 1643 and Queen Anne of Austria in 1666.
For the past two centuries,the building has been used by Protestants. French Protestantism had a long history of persecution, culminating in events such as the Massacre of St, Batholomew in 1572 and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. But French Reformed Church survived and in 1811 Napoleon I granted Paris Protestants the former Eglise de l'Oratoire du Louvre, which henceforth became known as the Temple de l'Oratoire du Louvre (2).
A statue of Admiral Gaspar de Coligny (1519-1572), prominent Protestant nobleman, is erected outside the Temple. This work, dating from 1889, is by Scellier de Gisors and Gustave Crauck.
The Temple de l'Oratoire du Louvre has a strong musical tradition and supports two choirs: one composes of adults and a children's choir (3). It has been the regular venue for the performance of Bach Cantatas. The Temple is noted for its promotion of Psalm singing and reading (4).
The current organ by Gonzalez dates from 1962. Almost incredibly, a noted organist, Marie-Louise Girod (1915-2008), served in this capacity from 1941 until 2008, having published recordings many of her interpretations of famous organ works over the course of several decades.
The building underwent a program of restoration in 2011.
I was struck by the central location of Temple de l'Oratoire du Louvre, close to the Louvre Museum and the Palais Royal. The building is located at 145, rue Saint-Honoré - 160, rue de Rivoli, in the 1st arrondissement (5).
February 2, 2015
(1) Other Paris works by Architect Lemercier include the Palais Royal, the Pavillon de l'Horloge du Louvre and the Chapelle de la Sorbonne.
(2) In contrast with English, French often uses two different words for 'church'; thus, a Roman Catholic building will usually be referred to with the word 'église', while a Protestant building will typically be designated 'temple'.
(3) A Friends' association supports the choir activities at the Temple (French: Association des Amis du Chœur de L’Oratoire du Louvre).
(4) http://oratoiredulouvre.fr/prier/quelques-psaumes.php When I visited Cahors, in the south of France, I was interested to visit a museum and recall Clément Marot (1496-1544), translator of a French edition of the Psalms widely used by French Protestants, who hailed from the city.
(5) Se also (in French): http://oratoiredulouvre.fr/bienvenue.php
Also worth seeing
Among the bewildering wealth of the city's visitor attractions are the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe ; the Paris Opera; the National Assembly (French: Assemblée nationale) at the Bourbon Palace (French: Palais Bourbon); place de la Concorde ; the Madeleine church; Montmartre; and many others.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle), from where car rental is available; however, visitors to Paris may wish to explore the city via its excellent public transport system. The nearest Métro station for the Temple de l'Oratoire du Louvre is Louvre-Rivoli on Line 1. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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