For many centuries, Paris has been a stronghold of the catholic church. As a result a large number of monumental churches were built in the city, from the 12th century Notre-Dame to the late 19th century Sacré-Coeur. During the revolution most of the churches were severely damaged and many were used as warehouses. Fortunately the surviving buildings were renovated after the revolution and many of them now boast splendid interior decorations.
Below you find a list of some of the most interesting churches and chapels in central Paris listed alphabetically.
Tucked away in the Rue Daru in the 8th arrondissement, this orthodox church was built in 1861 in traditional Russian-orthodox style for the Russian community in Paris, which exploded after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Most of them settled in this area known as ‘Little Russia’.
The Chapelle de la Sorbonne is a large chapel built in the early 17th century by order of cardinal Richelieu. The chapel is part of the complex of the reputed Sorbonne university. Inside, in the chancel, is Richelieu’s marble cenotaph, decorated with a sculpture of the cardinal.
In 1676 Louis XIV, the Sun King, commissioned the construction of a church in the Invalides complex. The Invalides already had a church, but this one would be reserved for the king himself. In 1841 King Louis-Philippe decided to place Napoleon’s tomb here. After more prominent figures were entombed here the church became a pantheon dedicated to France’s military leaders.
While the church’s foundations were laid in 1764 its current appearance is the result of a design created in 1806 for a Temple of Glory, meant to celebrate the victory of Napoleon at the battle of Jena that same year. By the time the building was completed, Napoleon was long gone so it was consecrated as a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene.
The Notre-Dame de l’Assomption was built in 1676 in the first arrondissement, not far from the Place de la Concorde. The church was designed by Charles Errard, who was inspired by a visit to Rome, hence the classical design of the church with a large dome and portico with Corinthian columns.
The Notre-Dame de la Croix de Ménilmontant is a large church situated in the 20th arrondissement. Its clock tower rises to a height of 78 meters (256 ft). It looks even taller due to the church’s elevated position. The church was built in the early 19th century and is remarkable due to its use of exposed metal frame in the vault.
One of the greatest Gothic cathedrals ever built, the Notre-Dame dominates the historic island Île de la Cité, the heart of Paris. Originally built in the 12th century, neglect, vandalism during the revolution and drastic renovations during the 19th century have drastically changed its appearance.
The first stone of the Notre-Dame des Victoires, a church situated in the center of Paris, was laid in 1629. Construction of the church, designed by Pierre Le Muet, dragged on and it was only completed a century later, in 1740. The church was part of an Augustinian convent which was demolished in 1859.
This church, built in 1902, is remarkable for its use of a visible iron frame. It gives the church an industrial atmosphere, which is no coincidence: the church was built for the construction workers who helped build the Eiffel Tower and other structures for the 1889 World Exhibition. The metal columns were even taken from the Palais de l’Industrie, an exhibition hall that was demolished in 1897.
One of the most majestic buildings in Paris, the Panthéon was commissioned by King Louis XV out of gratitude towards Ste Geneviève for recovering from a life-threatening illness. By the time it was completed in 1790, the revolution was in full swing – the building lost its function as a church and was declared a pantheon.
Tourists flock to this domed basilica on top of the Montmartre hill. Thanks to the use of Château-Landon stones, the monumental building keeps its clear white color, even in the polluted air of cities today. From the dome you have a magnificent view over Paris.
This impressive domed church was built between 1860 and 1871 after a design by architect Victor Baltard. Baltard, who also built the cast iron market halls known as the Halles de Paris, was the first to use a metal frame for a building of such a size.
The Church of Saint-Bernard de la Chapelle is one of the most ornate neo-Gothic churches in Paris. The church was built between 1858 and 1861 by the French architect Auguste-Joseph Magne. It is the centerpiece of Goutte d’Or, an immigrant neighborhood in the 18th arrondissement.
The Basilica of Saint-Denis was built in the fifth century at the burial place of Saint Denis, thought to be the first bishop of Paris. From the sixth century on most of the queens and kings of France were buried here, 74 in total. As a result the church is crammed with magnificent tombs.
Situated right near the Panthéon on top of the Sainte-Geneviève hill, this church also has its share of famous tombs. The remains of Sainte-Geneviève, patron saint of Paris, were enshrined here and the church contains the tombs of renowned French physicist Blaise Pascal and writer Jean Racine.
One of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Paris. It took 105 years before this large church was finally completed in 1637. By that time the Renaissance style had become prevalent, and influences of this new style can be found in the decorations on pillars and vaults.
Located right near the Louvre, this church was once the church of the French Kings. The church is notorious for its connection with the massacre of August 24, 1572 when thousands of Huguenots were killed. The massacre started the moment the church bells of the Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois rang.
The iconic 11th century clock tower of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church towers over the popular neighborhood with the same name. This is the oldest church in Paris, originally founded in the 6th century. It was the center of an abbey complex, which was destroyed in 1794 when gunpowder, stored here by the revolutionaries, exploded.
The 17th century Italian-Baroque style front stands out as this style is rather unusual for French churches. The church is renowned for its 18th century organ. In 1918, near the end of World War I, the church was shelled by the Germans, killing more than 100 people.
This small Romanesque church, built around the year 1200, is one of the oldest in Paris. During the revolution the church was used as a warehouse. It was reconsecrated in 1826 only to be deconsecrated again in 1877. Finally it was reconsecrated again in 1889 and handed over to Melkites, Byzantine rite Catholics.
A first church of Saint-Laurent was built in the sixth century. It was destroyed in the ninth century by the Normans. The current church dates back to the fifteenth century and was built in a flamboyant Gothic style. The west facade dates from the nineteenth century, when it was rebuilt on the order of Baron Haussmann as part of the urban renewal of the center of Paris.
The Saint-Louis-des-Invalides is the main church of the Invalides complex; it is connected to the more famous royal chapel known as the Dôme des Invalides. The church was built in 1676. The soldiers who lived at the Invalides were forced to attend the daily mass, hence it is also known as the soldiers’ church.
Built between 1627 and 1641, this Jesuit church was modeled after the Gesù Church in Rome. The church was originally named Saint-Louis, but after the neighboring Saint-Paul church was destroyed, the name Saint-Paul was added. Its dome, 60m high (197ft), was one of the most impressive of its time.
This church in the heart of Paris was built by the renowned French architect Lemercier, better known for his work on the Louvre and Sorbonne church. Construction on the large Saint-Roch church started in 1653 but it was later enlarged in the 18th century.
One of the oldest churches in Paris. Its origin goes back to the 11th century, although much of the beautiful Gothic architecture we see today is the result of construction in the 15th century. The church is known for its stained-glass windows: a mixture of original Gothic windows, 19th century and modern 20th century windows.
The first stone for this church was laid in 1646 and it took no less than 134 years before this enormous church – the second largest in Paris – was completed. The church was originally designed by Daniet Gittard, but the colonnaded facade was created by Italian architect Giovanni Servandoni. Peculiar about this church is that the two towers have a different design.
Built between 1824 and 1844, and designed by Cologne-born architect Jacob Ignaz Hittorf, this church is characterized by its colonnaded classical front. The layout of the church however, is that of a typical Christian basilica.
Sainte-Chapelle was built in 1248 by King Louis IX to store the Crown of Thorns. Located within the walls of the Palace of Justice, this masterpiece of medieval architecture is admired for its many stained glass windows. The structure has two tiers, with the lower chapel designed for the royal staff and the soaring higher chapel for the members of the royal family.
The Basilique Sainte-Clotilde was built in the mid-nineteenth century in a neo-Gothic style. The church, which was promoted to the rank of basilica minor in 1897, is located in the 7th arrondissement. This large church has beautiful stained-glass windows created by Emile Thibaud, one of the greatest stained-glass artist of the 19th century.
This church was built between 1861 and 1867 in the ninth arrondissement as part of Baron Haussman’s plans to modernize urban Paris. It was designed by French architect Théodore Ballu in a mixture of styles ranging from neo-Gothic to Renaissance. The three statues in front of the church symbolize Faith, Hope and Charity.
This magnificent church was commissioned by King Louis XIII’s spouse, Anna of Austria, out of gratitude for the birth of her firstborn son (who would become King Louis XIV, the Sun King). The domed church, designed by François Mansart and Jacques Lemercier in splendid Baroque style was completed in 1667 after 22 years of construction.