American Cathedral in Paris

Paris, France


Constructed between 1881 and 1889, the American Cathedral in Paris was designed by George Edmond Street, a leading Gothic Revival architect. Officially known as the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, the construction began in the late 1870s when Reverend John Brainerd Morgan purchased the land necessary to accommodate American Episcopal worshippers in Paris. Since its inauguration in 1886, the church has been in continuous use, with the exception of a period during World War II. Within the context of Parisian churches of the nineteenth century, the building is considered a masterpiece for its quality of construction and decoration, which has changed little over time. One of the church's most prominent features, triple lancet windows, installed before 1900 and embellished with lead stained glass windows, required significant conservation attention as the twentieth century drew to a close.

How We Helped

Conservation carried out with WMF support focused primarily on the triple lancet windows located behind the altar and their masonry enclosure. Conservation of these elements was launched in June 2001, with an examination and provisional structural support for the stained glass panels and their lead features by a stained glass conservator who had worked on similar problems at the Church of St. Ann and Holy Trinity in Brooklyn, New York, a nineteenth-century Episcopal church also notable for its ensemble of stained glass windows. After a conservation plan was devised, the windows were dismantled in January 2006. The exterior and interior of the panels were cleaned to eliminate layers of dirt that had accumulated largely from atmospheric pollution and interior smoke from votive candles. After the correction of warping caused by excessive weight of lead, the panels were reassembled and reinstalled in their original positions.

Why It Matters

George Edmund Street was an important nineteenth-century architect, whose work took on great significance in this period. His design of the American Cathedral of Paris was a commission requiring great skill in conveying Episcopalian ideals, evoking an American cultural presence, and fitting the building into the Paris streetscape. Apart from the reputation of its architect, the cathedral represents a fully developed example of romanticism in the Gothic Revival style. It is not axially symmetrical, and thus breaks from the character of other contemporaneous French Gothic Revival structures.

Last updated: June 2018.

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